2022. 01. 10.

Know your passenger: how connecting communication platforms can improve airline operation

An interview with Ann Cederhall, airline communications expert.

Passenger communication landscape in aviation is transforming rapidly. Covid changed the rules how we communicate with our passengers. The most prominent trend is leveraging customer insights arriving from different platforms, such as an airline’s outsourced call centers and its own OMS. Ann Cederhall, aviation technology specialist, consultant of LeapShift, reveals how connecting comms platforms with each other can increase operation efficiency, reduce costs and improve customer experience.

– What is an OMS actually and can we say that all airlines should have one?

OMS is an abbreviation for order management system. We can say that it is essential to deliver a single source of truth to any sales and servicing channel for an airline. It enables keeping a precise order history for every customer and a range of retailing techniques to present relevant offers while addressing common customer pain points.

If an airline wants to tap in on revenue opportunities beyond its own commoditized products (such as partner products and services) I’d highly recommend them to implement an OMS.

However, if the airline doesn’t need order, it might just as well use a store front or e-commerce platform that simply functions as a layer on top of their Passenger Service System and other products. I would recommend though that they use a system that allows them quick time to market and flexibility. To wait 6 to 9 months for a simple change simply doesn’t cut in in today’s market conditions.

– Is there a benefit of connecting your OMS with your passenger communication platform, such as your contact center or disruption management system?

Of course, it is a given one. Order allows the communications platform to “know” all the passenger history and allows the system to react and respond based on that knowledge.

‘One single truth of knowledge from many customer interfaces’

As the OMS is the single source of truth, it makes perfect sense that any communications platform that provides an interface to customer, be that a call center agent or a robotic service, has access to customer data, including profile and purchasing data in order to provide a better customer experience.

Also the OMS is the integrator and the communicator between your different systems, it is the “control center” for lack of a better word. It functions much like an integration layer allowing calls not only to a set of pre-defined methods, but also allows requesting specific services within the OMS e.g., offer service, profile service, order service.

– How can an airline leverage all these in building their brand?

Since the OMS holds customer and order data in a flexible data structure and service-oriented architecture, it can contribute to a smooth service by leveraging the relations held between the customer, the airline and any third-party provider e.g., hotel. Ideally, the OMS should be able to handle changes in an as automated way as possible to reduce the stress for the customers.

A bit of caveat on this is of course that there are still a number of challenges in this area, however when it comes to airline owned products an OMS must be able to handle the majority of customer pain points.

– OMS comes from the world of online retail. What else can airlines adopt from the e-commerce domain to engage customers with smooth purchasing processes?

Every airline should identify which processes they like themselves in retail and put the customer first. It should be mandatory that what the customer sees is what the airline sees, you should work in the same environment, staff travel should be booked in the same way the customer books. This will allow airlines to address customer pain points more effectively.

Also an OMS allows you to experiment and do AB testing to better understand your customers and to be able to do that in an agile way, you cannot accept that it takes 6 months to implement a new product in the passenger service system – you need a system where you can implement in hours.

– What do you see changing in why airlines are looking into improving communication and cutting cost?

One of the good things that has been revealed over the last year and a half is how fragile and inflexible the systems are and how siloed the airline organizations are. Airlines are realizing that they need to improve across the board from intention, selling, servicing through to refund. The use of AI and machine learning automates many of these processes and requires a flexible system that allows deep customer understanding.

– How do you see the convergence of passenger communication platforms and OMS? How could airlines benefit from building a unified platform instead of working with silos?

Every airline should identify the most frequently asked questions in customer service and look at ways to better improve the service and automate flows.  The time you save when using an efficient communications platform identifying the customer from the start in the process helps enormously and you couple that with the intelligence you have, will save you so much time when handling questions.

‘A call center agent should have all the information at hand’

A call center agent should have all the information at hand about the customer from the very start of identifying the phone number.  And then all of this should be integrated with your IROPs platform to further automate the processes. But most importantly when you know your passenger you provide better service and build loyalty. If I call my airline and am greeted with Welcome Ann how can we help you today? Is it your upcoming reservation to London or the one to Paris? It really is a no brainer.