Airlines have long been a poster child for subpar customer service, and recent scandals have not helped the industry on the reputation front. New research from customer experience management firm Clarabridge identifies actionable takeaways for airlines to improve the customer experience. The results illuminate customers’ true behaviors and expectations around air travel to enable airlines to improve overall satisfaction and increase loyalty.
In today’s digitally connected world, where the consequences of a customer’s negative interaction have the potential to go viral, it is crucial for airlines to understand what their customers are saying—and implement that feedback into positive change. Listening to the customer not only creates a more enjoyable experience for air travelers, but ultimately saves airlines countless dollars in preventing customer experience crises before they arise.
The survey unveiled three critical findings:
Consumers believe airlines are not listening
Sixty-nine and 73 percent of U.S. and UK consumers respectively have never submitted a complaint, nor delivered feedback to an airline company. Within both markets, about two thirds of all consumers report that even when they do deliver feedback on their experience, complaints go unrecognized or unaddressed. This suggests that it is imperative for airlines to accurately collect and respond to feedback to ensure customers know they are being heard, and that their feedback is being acted upon in order to provide the best possible travel experience.
Flight staff and crew attitude drives loyalty even more than affordable flights. In the U.S., 38 percent of customers are loyal to a particular airline based on how they are treated, compared to 35 percent of customers who choose their airlines based on price. Friendly staff is more indicative of whether or not an individual recommends an airline to a future traveler, with 33 percent of all UK customers citing it as the primary reason for their recommendation. Therefore, airlines must use the customer voice to adjust their policies, procedures and training and encourage the entire organization—from teams both in the sky and back at headquarters—to instill a culture of friendliness and positivity so that customers keep coming back.
It’s time to improve digital feedback channels
In both the United States and the United Kingdom, customers expressed a preference for digital feedback. Of the customers that do provide feedback, 46 percent and 42 percent in the U.K. and U.S. do so by email, and 13 percent and 11 percent, respectively, by social media. Across both markets, more than half of all customers utilize digital tools to comment on their experience. In the U.K. only 1 in 10 complaints actually involves a human interaction. In conjunction with an increase in digital feedback, the data suggests that airlines must improve and invest in the technical infrastructure necessary to support customer complaints via digital means, be it on social media or in-app. This will not only satisfy customers, but also reduce the weight and cost of in person channels.
“The insights gleaned from this survey equip airlines with the necessary customer perspective to go above and beyond their true desires and expectations,” said Mark Bishof, CEO of Clarabridge, in a news release. “[Strong customer data] empowers airlines to narrow in on the root cause of customer complaints to help create better customer experiences in a time when one bad interaction has the potential to go viral.”
Clarabridge surveyed more than 1,200 consumers in both the United States and United Kingdom. In both surveys respondents were between the ages of 18 and 60. The survey asked airline consumers share their feedback on all aspects of their air travel experience including personal preferences, expectations and key complaints. Clarabridge also analyzed more than 750,000 online ratings/reviews and mentions shared on public forums from Facebook, Airline Quality and TripAdvisor to capture the voice of the customer.