Lufthansa and Total Customer Experience (TCE)


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The personal experience of Silvana Buljan (Global CEM International Partner – Spain) and her two daughters on Lufthansa, highlights an intriguing topic – when does the total customer experience start and end and how can TCE be divided into customer life-stages then subdivided into touch-point experiences.

Figure 1 – Customer Life-stages and Touch-point Experiences—Airlines

My Lufthansa Experience
by Silvana Buljan, G-CEM International Partner – Spain

I traveled with Lufthansa regularly between 1998 and 2003, and have been traveling less regularly since then with a couple of flights per year. Comparing my personal customer experience with this airline between 1998 and 2010, I can sincerely say that they have improved in all areas of customer management, with some significant changes.

I remember Lufthansa stewardesses being the re-incarnation of Richard Wagner’s Isolde: blond, tall, thin and attractive, and, unfortunately, very arrogant towards passengers. I never felt that I was treated in a nice and friendly, simple way. Today, the situation has completely changed. It seems that Lufthansa has changed its HR recruiting strategy: staff is multinational, very customer-oriented, friendly and interested in the passengers’ well-being. And I no longer feel like I am watching models on a catwalk.

Last Christmas, I was traveling with my two daughters from Spain to Germany. Due to bad weather conditions across Europe for an entire week, flight delays and cancellations were on the daily agenda. When I reached the airport, hundreds of people were standing in line to check-in, get refunds, re-book their flights, etc. As I stood in line to check-in for my flight, a Lufthansa employee came up to me and told me that I needn’t worry – because I was traveling with little kids I would receive preferential treatment; I wouldn’t have to be afraid of missing my flight. I was pretty amazed at this, and very satisfied because it took away my fear of not being able to celebrate Christmas with my family in Germany.

My personal time dedicated to reservations, payment, check-in and boarding has been reduced about 50%. Today, I can do everything online, with my phone, or at automatic check-in at the airport. Traveling is not a pain for me anymore – rushing to the airport to check-in on time, standing in line to leave my luggage, and then rushing to the gate for boarding – everything works perfectly at Lufthansa and I don’t worry that something promised is not delivered. No failures so far.

Nevertheless, some “customer unfriendly” things still happen, especially if you are not considered a premium customer (frequent traveler of the Lufthansa Miles&More program). I witnessed a very unfriendly situation two years ago, when a snow storm forced Frankfurt Airport to shut down for 24 hours: an elderly woman was told that she would have to find a hotel and stay overnight on her own, without Lufthansa supporting her logistically or financially, because it considered the weather incident “force majeure” and as such was not liable for the delay. As a company policy this makes sense and is understandable, but from a human perspective, well, some rules are made to be broken. In this case it would have made someone helpless very thankful and loyal.

All in all, I have to admit that my first choice for traveling is Lufthansa. I only travel with other airlines if the connection is not provided by Lufthansa (or one of its Star Alliance partners) or price difference is significant.

Silvana’s flying experience with Lufthansa shows that the customer life-stages and touch-point experiences can happen before the flight (using her phone for reservations and check-in), in the air (the outlook and attitude of the flight attendants), and on the ground (differential treatments at check-in).

Customer Life-stages
When is the beginning of the total customer experience? It happens well before customers first purchase from you. Normally, prospective customers form opinions and perceptions of your brand from many sources: mass media advertising, news stories, search engines, social media, friends and families. These impressions can be grouped into the “Brand Perception” life-stage.

This stage is followed by the “Plan & Purchase” life-stage. A customer begins the BUY function by actively seeking information, for example by searching the Internet, or in a passive way, such as viewing a promotional advertisement that triggers the BUY button. The customer then places the order online or through other channels like the retail branch or call center of the airline or through a travel agent.

The “Consumption” life-stage, including pre-flight, in-flight, and post-flight, is probably the most important and sophisticated customer life-stage for all airlines. It is when and where customers consume the airline’s core products and services – transporting them from the departure destination to the arrival destination. The sophistication lies in the fact that touch-point experiences of the “Consumption” life-stage are delivered by multiple channels and internal functions, such as gate staff, cabin crew, catering, and ground crew, and externally by third parties, such as airport authorities and allied airlines.

So, when is the end of the total customer experience, the last customer life-stage? For airlines, let’s suggest the “Post-consumption” life-stage: for example, promoting an upcoming offer via electronic or printed direct mail, building customer relationships by acknowledging birthdays, or rewarding passenger loyalty with mileage programs.

The aggregation of all these customer life-stages – Brand Perception, Plan & Purchase, Consumption, and Post-consumption – is a single customer life cycle or the total customer experience for an airline. The basic rule of thumb in defining and categorizing customer life-stages and their relevant touch-point experiences is to follow the “pre-” “at-” and “post-purchase/ consumption” pattern, listing all the steps involved in a natural time sequence.

Touch-point Experiences
As you can see in Figure 1, there are multiple touch-point experiences within each customer life-stage for airlines. Some suggestions include: “TX1 – Word of Mouth” and “TX2 – PR and Branding” for the Brand Perception life-stage; “TX3 – Ads & Promotions”, “TX4 – Researching”, and “TX5 – Buying” within the Plan & Purchase life-stage; “TX6 – Check-in”, “TX7 – Lounge”, “TX8 – Gate” for the Pre-flight life-stage, “TX9 – In-flight” for the In-flight life-stage, and “TX10 – Connect / Baggage” for the Post-flight life-stage; and “TX11 – Loyalty Program” and “TX12 – Customer Relations” for the Post-consumption life-stage. This is a simplified version of the total customer experience for an airline, and of course, more specific touch-point experiences could be added where appropriate.

The next section, “Section THREE: Air Asia and Touch-point Experience” shows the difference between touch-points and sub-process, and why it is important to understand them when building a TCE Model [1].


1. TCE (Total Customer Experience) Model is based on the United States patent-pending Branded Customer Experience Management Method invented by Sampson Lee, president of Global CEM (Global Customer Experience Management Organization), in 2007.

This document “Total Customer Experience (TCE) for Airlines” is composed of five sections. Part of the content of four sections are contributed by the Global CEM International Partners: Annemiek van Moorst from the Netherlands, Candice Chee from Singapore, John Chisholm from the United States, and Silvana Buljan from Spain, and in the foreword by Bob Thompson, CEO of CustomerThink, in the United States.

Section ONE: Total Customer Experience (TCE) for Airlines
Section TWO: Lufthansa and Total Customer Experience (TCE) (current section)
Section THREE: Air Asia and Touch-point Experience
Section FOUR: KLM (Air France) and the Static TCE (Total Customer Experience) Model
Section FIVE: American Airlines and the Dynamic TCE (Total Customer Experience) Model


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