Using digital tools to help customers become smart travelers

I think we can all agree that air travel is an amazing thing.

In today’s world, we can go from Toronto to Hong Kong, from Dallas to Doha, from Johannesburg to Atlanta, Georgia in less than a day’s time – simply by boarding one comfortable, modern airplane.

That’s truly amazing, right?

But when considering the process of air travel – the time customers spend checking in, finding their gate, grabbing something to eat, moving their gate, rushing through the airport to make a connection – some other words probably come to their mind. Frustrating, headache-inducing, “the worst” – and those are just a few descriptions I pulled from today’s headlines on Google News.

In the last 100 years, the travel industry has made momentous advancements. The planes we ride on are top-notch. Airlines have taken great strides to improve the onboard experience. Passengers can now watch their favorite TV shows, log onto Wi-Fi, enjoy a vegetarian-friendly meal and glass of locally sourced wine and recline in a specially designed ergonomic seat. It can be a really great experience.

But the industry hasn’t yet figured out how to make that experience translate outside the plane. We haven’t determined how to make the process of air travel better and easier for our customers.

In a lot of ways, the technology needed to make this happen wasn’t quite up to the task – until now. With Internet of Things (IoT) , mobile devices, ubiquitous Wi-Fi and modern business process, the industry can usher customers through that end-to-end travel journey in a way that improves the overall experience.

In our view, it’s not about building an app for a single company or vendor. It’s about pulling together an ecosystem of service providers that can communicate with each other and with customers through new, connected channels.

Let me walk you through a possible scenario.

A customer’s flight from San Francisco to Chicago is running late, but she has to catch a connection into New York. The airline rebooks the flight, while freeing up a seat in the original New York-bound plane. The customer gets a notice via app with the new flight time, gate number and a map showing the easiest route through the airport. She also has the option to place an order at a food and beverage stand along the way to pick up after the plane touches down. Another alert tells her it’s raining in New York, and she might want to consider buying an umbrella at the store in the terminal.

By connecting applications, data and services from the airline, the airport, the airport vendors, IoT, sensors and a variety of other sources, this approach can create a personalized and helpful experience for the customer. Service providers can usher travelers through the full end-to-end process, from planning and booking to departure, arrival and beyond.

And the business benefits as well. With the rich data created by the app, service providers can learn about customers’ preferences, travel and shopping behaviors. Aggregated customer data can be analyzed to drive insights and help business leaders make better decisions about inventory, staffing and more.

Best of all, the travel industry can improve on and truly own the full customer experience, turning passengers in to smarter and, better yet, happier travelers.

In my view, it’s a neat idea with a lot of potential. We’ll be exploring the possibilities digital technology brings to the travel industry in a series of blog posts to come. I encourage you to engage with us here and through social media, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Using digital tools to help customers become smart travelers Paul Wagner is industry general manager for Travel & Transportation at CSC. Connect with him on LinkedIn






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