For many Americans, spring break means taking a breather from the day-to-day. In fact, 73% of travelers say their spring travel plans are aimed at relaxing and avoiding stress. Regrettably, travel can often have the opposite effect. Research has also shown that 4 in 5 people view traveling as more stressful than going to work.
Recent challenges for the airline industry – including computer meltdowns, disruptions from severe weather conditions, and the FAA shutdown – are all testaments to those data points.
While some travel disruptions are out of the airlines’ control, others are completely within their capacity to improve. How they react to these dynamic conditions – and mitigate the effect on traveler experiences – can be the difference between a satisfied repeat customer and one lost for good. Here are a few recommendations for preparing for the next major travel interruption event.
Connect all aspects of the travel experience
Relying fully on digital customer service channels might backfire during a mass cancellation event. While many users prefer digital, there are clear scenarios requiring human intervention. For example, if a flight is canceled, an airline would be short-sighted to direct its Platinum status frequent fliers into the general queue online. These travelers expect white-glove treatment based on their loyalty to the airline. Here a human agent can provide needed empathy and help find a creative solution to their problems.
Also, when something goes wrong, such as a flight cancellation or extended delay, it’s imperative for airlines to have more than one channel for passengers to access information or find another flight. Some will immediately tap their mobile app to look for a solution, while others might prefer to call the contact center or wait in line for a gate agent’s assistance. These channels should all connect to a single system to avoid mishaps like flights being overbooked. Refining the omnichannel strategy will help align agents across all channels, whether virtual or human.
Communicate early and often
Airlines have bumped passengers more often in recent months than they did in 2021, often due to last-minute switches to smaller planes. These unexpected disruptions can wreak havoc with passengers who are eager to get to their destination. Passengers who feel left in the lurch without clear communication on their rebooking status or expected time of departure quickly become frustrated and angry.
Consistent communication, even if it’s only to notify them that a solution is still being worked out, will help soften the hit to a brand’s reputation. These updates should be communicated across all channels as well, from the gate agent to push alerts, to email and mobile apps.
Invest in the right tech for 2023
The recent rash of high-profile computer mishaps in the travel industry highlight some of the vulnerabilities airlines face with legacy technology. Updating systems with tighter, more efficient processes that are implemented across all departments can eliminate technological difficulties that result in customer service nightmares. With the correct tech and systems in place, customer service agents can handle a higher volume of requests while staying connected in real time to all departments for the latest information.
While there might not be time to implement entirely new systems before spring breakers start hitting the beaches, there are steps that airlines can take to avoid the CX nightmares, which passengers faced during the winter travel season. Ensuring that travelers have multiple ways to contact their carrier in a crisis, and that all corners of the organization are connected, working from a single source of truth when resolving passenger issues, are first steps in the right direction.