How airlines can develop proactive, retail-focused customer service agents

Today’s travelers have grown to expect personalized digital services such as online ticketing that features special offers, so airlines are using analytics to enable customer service agents to be more proactive.

At many airlines today, an agent fielding a customer call likely doesn’t know in advance the caller is looking to request a specific seat. Moving forward, information systems must be integrated so the agent has a 360-degree view of the customer. For example, the system could push information to the agent to let them know this customer always asks for a window seat in the middle of the plane.

And while agents can use the information to fulfill the customer’s immediate needs, having that big picture view will also enable the agent to use the call to offer the right product at the right time in the lifecycle. Here are some examples:

  • Push bonus miles upgrades. Offer an upgrade if the customer checks in and has enough bonus miles to upgrade and there’s space on the flight they are asking about.
  • Upsell special business-class clients. If a client always buys business-class tickets, the system can let the agent know so they can drive the sale up instead of searching for the lowest fares.
  • Streamline the airport experience. If the passenger has a history of paying for an extra bag at the airport, the agent can recommend paying for the bag service up-front so the passenger can save time at the airport.
  • Offer frequent traveler amenities to infrequent travelers. The system can distinguish whether the passenger is a frequent traveler and already has a special club membership. For infrequent travelers, the system can prompt the agent to offer for purchase a lounge service, especially if the traveler will have a long stayover for a connecting flight.
  • Cater to international travelers. If the agent has a request for a passenger going to Egypt, but the system knows the passenger is a Norwegian citizen, the agent can be prompted to advise the passenger about new online visa options available for the destination.

While the airline industry has been moving in this direction, there’s still a great deal of work to do. As airlines build more intelligent systems for agents, they will also need to measure performance. They’ll need to track where the agents normally make errors, what they spend the most time on and which upgrades are the most beneficial to the bottom line.

By making customer service agents more proactive and then using analytics to continuously measure performance, the airlines can optimize revenue, reduce training time for new agents and increase the number of customers an agent can service. This kind of continuous improvement will play a critical role in the airline industry’s digital transformation journey. While the industry will make incremental improvements as these new systems are rolled out and perfected, the transition is well under way.


Mona Evert headshotMona Evert is the offering lead responsible for Agent Services within Airline and Consumer Travel Services at DXC Technology. She has more than 25 years of experience in the travel agency and airline industry in both business and information services. Mona is DXC’s IATA representative for the PADIS board as well as the coordinator of participation at new technology innovation and strategy meetings like NDC and One Order.

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