10 April 2010

Riding the Rails - Simplifying the Experience.

IATA has had an initiative for some time called SPT - simplifying passenger travel.


This past week - the Professor has been riding the rails. Given the different and varied number of trips I took - I almost felt like this was I was John L Sullivan (of Travels fame).

So here is what I actually undertook:

18 Separate Train Journeys

Heathrow Express (UK)
London Underground (4)
Gatwick Express (UK)
Zurich Tram (2)
SBB Train (2)
Munich S-Bahn
Munich U-Bahn
Deutche Bahn ICE (2)
DB Regional
Stuttgart S-Bahn

Interestingly the service is good and reliable. But it really opened my eyes to one key fact - Air Travel has become WAY too complicated and therefore of less and less value as a form of transportation.

I believe that we in the industry need to start working hard to reduce the complexity of the travel experience.

So who is going to take on my challenge? It really needs to be a crusade.


08 April 2010

UA and US Chatting

Somewhat rebuffed by a stable CO - UA has turned to US as a potential merger partner.

This seems to have the rather rancid smell of 2 bad airline models (despite improvement) trying to get to scale. (Hello doesn't anyone look at history?).

So let's hope that UA sees the error of its ways and goes back to nesting with CO.

Still they just might actually do it - after 2 prior attempts in 2008 and previously in 2000 - this just could happen. Not sure that would be good.


Mega Airlines Inc - aka BA+IB

The 2 airlines have finally sealed their deal. Newly emboldened BA (despite some heavy losses during the 2 strikes over the Easter Holidays) has signed on its definitive agreement with Spanish airline Iberia.

The share ownership will be 55/45 in favour of BA. There is still one get out of jail free card - this is if BA fails by June 30th to conclude their agreements to resolve the somewhat large pension deficit issue. Despite securing agreements with the unions this is by no means a sure thing. There is a small issue of the amount of cash that the fund is deficient by....

So things are looking up for the new airline group. Let's see what the EU regulators say to the deal. They still have to rule.

The merger should be completed officially by the end of the year and full integration (except for the brands) is targeted for about 5 years.


05 April 2010

Do You Really Care About Your Customer?

So let's see if you pass the Professor's test criteria:

1. Do you put your 800 Number/access telephone in the work flow before he/she purchases?
2. Do you answer your phone and have metrics for acceptable performance
3. Is your service consistent no matter which channel your customer reaches you.
4. Do you reward your staff based on number of calls rather than quality of calls?
5. Do you give your agents the ability to solve the customer's issue including paying compensation
6. Do you have more than 2 layers of escalation from the first call touch point.
7. Do you actually answer emails?

I think you get my point. I cannot think of any one Travel Business that has the right characteristics. And before you throw lots of rotten eggs at me - look inward first. Is it really a question of money?

So let me ask you if you understand what are the two things that the customer wants you to care about?

1. Don't treat me like an idiot
2. Remember that my time is more precious than yours.

If your philosophy enables your customer to feel that you actually are treating them with respect - firstly cut out that trashed old script. Throw out the efficiency paradigm. Efficiency is not the only metric. And take the time to understand his issue. And cardinal rule according to the professor is to let the customer take control of the conversation even if it is to allow him to rant.

One of my favorite writers about the Web is Gerry McGovern and his weekly piece is usually a tooth jarring reminder about our obligations and trust - sacred that it is - to the customer. The current arrogant behavior that many travel companies take to their user community is shameful.

In fact I try and stop using the word customer at all.

So let me leave you with the end comment on Gerry's blog: "What's the best attribute your web team can have? Caring about your customers time. Treat their time as a truly precious thing. Treat them as intelligent. Focus on service. Focus on what the customer wants to do, not what you want the customer to do. Solve their problem, not yours. It's a shift in thinking but it's where the future lies."