Amazon knows me. Oh boy, do they know me! Our dog thinks the deliveryman is part of our family. Amazon knows what I like, and does their very best to create a wonderful and personalized experience for us by using their “system of intelligence” to provide it. Amazon Prime membership now offers movies, music and audiobooks in addition to other membership services all tailored to my family and me. Alexa, Amazon’s hit home bot, can be setup to automate my home and much more to enhance convenience and comfort. All of these offerings and services are designed to improve and personalize my experiences so I will feel inclined to increase my business, loyalty and commitment to Amazon.
Airlines, on the other hand, seem determined to drive their users away in 2017. From personal experience, airlines don’t seem interested in your welfare or quality of experience, or what you like, what kind of trip your are on, or how much current and future business you can provide them. They are not using “systems of intelligence” to provide wonderful and personalized experiences. As a million-miler quickly heading toward a 2 million-miler status, my legacy airline does not seem interested in considering my short or long term business value in any of their algorithms or considerations. This seems to be a rejection of systems of intelligence.
It’s not just me whining (I swear)! I did some research on many different travel sites this week and travel experts are advising many of their readers to abandon rewards programs and airline loyalty as the value has disappeared for most travellers.
Let me provide a few examples. A couple that is traveling together on a romantic holiday must reject all upgrades (upgrades they earned) in order to stay together on a flight, or pay full price for an upgrade – that doesn’t feel right. They are now being told to pay for upgrades, even if they are potentially eligible for free ones – just for the opportunity to sit together. And if one of the couple accepts an upgrade leaving the other in the back of the plane, there goes the romance!
One airline recently dropped a level of elite status, from being considered a “real” status level (changed late in 2016). So the money and loyalty that helped them earn their status has now been devalued to nothing – that treatment doesn’t feel right.
One of the key benefits of earning status is the ability to select better and more comfortable seats, and to manage your experience at time of booking. In 2017 that is gone, and you must now pay to play. If you wait for an potential upgrade based on status, you may be placed in an uncomfortable center seat that you had no role in choosing. Your upgrade becomes the source of discomfort and inconvenience. In order to ensure you are not placed in the center seat between two overflowing travelers, you must reject automatic upgrades, and pay for any upgrades even though you are eligible for free ones. You now have less control, less predictability, less personalization and less comfort because of your elite status – that doesn’t feel right.
It is not hard, using analytics and algorithms, to estimate the lifetime value of individual customers – that is a basic function for a true system of intelligence. Many of us frequent travelers represent many hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, euros, etc., worth of real and potential lifetime value to an airline. To reject that data and its intelligence in their decision-making and customer service treatment – just doesn’t feel right.
In a digital age where real-time contextually relevant personalization is the gold standard of market leading customer service oriented companies, airlines have rejected it. This rejection of intelligence, I predict, will ultimately open up a competitive gap, an opportunity, for new kinds of airlines and/or service models willing to treat their customers as individuals with names, wallets, significant others, lifetime business values and butts.