Summer Travel Underscores Need for Airlines to Overhaul Customer Service


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When it comes to customer service departments, few industries underwhelm on an annual basis quite like the airline industry. This isn’t just about leg room, and it isn’t even about being forcibly dragged off a plane. In fact, despite several recent PR missteps, the airline industry just had its highest rating ever bestowed on it by the American Customer Service Index.

The bad news? Their score, a 75 on the organization’s 100-point scale, still puts airlines in the bottom third of the 40 sectors measured by ACSI researchers. Despite recent strides taken to improve customer service in the airline industry, it remains to be seen whether these efforts will be great enough to stem the tide of such a historically poor reputation.
But with summer in full swing, we should find out soon enough.

U.S. air travel hit a record high in 2016, and a recent report from ABC News found that airlines are anticipating an additional 9 million travelers between June 1st and August 31st this year.

Here are some of the key considerations to watch as airlines try to accommodate a record number of travelers this summer.

Have omni-channel shortcomings been addressed?
According to a recent study on travel industry customer service conducted by Aspect, it was found that only 27 percent of travel executives believe their company is delivering an omni-channel experience. This is a startlingly low number, especially given the nature of the business. Travel industry customers aren’t sitting at home buying a tangible product online. They’re living the product, and it is meant to fit into a larger experience. Travelers must be able to reach out quickly and conveniently across channels at any time, or there is a chance that they could run into logistical issues with their trips and turn a small service issue into a big one.
Travel Graphic

Are customer service agents equipped with the right tools for the job?
As businesses continue to emphasize customer service, a broad suite of innovative call center solutions have entered the marketplace to meet that demand. But according to Aspect’s travel industry study, only half of travel organizations have yet to achieve their own innovation goals. Customer service decision makers must take a hard look at the infrastructure and software at play across their organizations and determine whether they are getting all they can out of innovative contact center technology.

Can travelers help airlines by helping themselves?
Our travel industry study also found that three out of four consumers want the ability to resolve customer service issues on their own. Innovative interactive voice response (IVR) and interactive text response (ITR) features can certainly address the needs of those consumers, but only 30 percent of travel executives strongly agreed that self-service was an important part of their company’s customer service strategy, last in the industries we tracked in the survey. Airlines will be able to greatly reduce pressure on their own customer service agents by giving travelers the ability to resolve their own inquiries. The airlines that fail to heed this lesson are likely in for a turbulent summer.

Tim Dreyer
Tim Dreyer, Director of Public Relations and Analyst Relations at Aspect, is a results-oriented manager with over 18 years of advertising, marketing communications and public relations and social media experience developing and implementing media programs, advertising strategy, and marketing programs. Tim's background includes a range of broad cross-functional experience and strong leadership.


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