Ai Editorial: Omnichannel personalisation, is it for real?

First published on 15th September, 2016

Ai Editorial: A traveller is dissatisfied with a flight experience, the airline compensates. But is there a way this passenger would be recognized, in case he or she decides to book with the same carrier, explores Ai’s Ritesh Gupta


How to win back the confidence of a disgruntled traveller?

Can today’s analytics software or the so-called single view of the customer derived from several sources and the eventual sum of customer interactions, appease and encourage a peeved flyer to opt for a particular airline brand again? Can a targeted message be displayed to the customer as per the previous experience when or app is being used to book a seat?

One of my recent experiences with Lufthansa and SWISS made me dig deeper into the same.

Here goes the experience: I flew with Lufthansa, the seats allocated were messed up despite being a word given for it at the airport. I had an indifferent experience at the gate, and was unsatisfied with the fact the team managing the airline's Twitter account couldn’t handle my request or even respond with the status despite a five-hour window before flying. The in-flight crew was considerate but couldn’t help. So I, as a non-loyal flyer, Tweeted about my experience, wrote on Facebook, reviewed on TripAdvisor, wrote an email and eventually the airline called up to sort out. I was compensated, and the episode ended on a much better note.

Now say after a week or a month you are planning your next booking, and you access airline’s site and mobile app, do you think it is possible that you are going to be greeted with a personalised as you are looking for tickets on the same airline's website/ app? In my case, I checked Delhi-Munich flight twice in a span of 10 days – never received any personalised message based on my experience on the airline website, and no message via retargeting, too.

Is personalisation for real?

I spoke to two senior industry executives from Switchfly and Boxever about the possibility of a disgruntled non-flyer getting identified via a digital touchpoint when he or she visits an airline-owned platform again. This is what they had to say:

Kevin Wray, Chief Commercial Officer at Switchfly: There are various technologies available for user tracking, but no company seems to be able to link actions seen on social media to a CRM system that will enable the web experience to be different the next time the user visits. The best chance you have would be to force all users to log in, which would access their profile from the CRM system, and could then potentially show a message relating to their previous poor experience and offer a make-good. But there is a lot of tech that would have to sit in the middle of such an experience, for example:

How do you find comments on Facebook that a user has posted?

o    You don’t know their FB ID – it could be a private account.

o    How do you correlate that to the ID you have in your CRM?

o    There are privacy and terms of service issues with “scraping” FB pages and looking for comments, and storing that data on your servers.

Same comments hold true for Twitter.

You have a better chance if the user posts to the airline’s Twitter or FB account, but they would still have to tell you their true name, which you would have to correlate back to the UID in your system - not easy, very expensive to build.

Even if you could do all this, most, if not all e-commerce sites, allow account-less checkout, and even with cookies used as a tracking mechanism, you would not be able to drop a cookie onto the user’s browser from the Twitter or Facebook interaction – you can only drop a cookie while they are on your own website or a hosted forum that your company sponsors.  So – the vision is ambitious and could give customers a true feeling they are being “heard” and taken care of, but the effort would run into a great deal of privacy and access issues. Most companies today seem to be able to email users after an interaction with a call center, with an offer or make-good. Connecting that back to the web experience can be done within closed systems inside an airline or company, but not using social media unless you also capture Facebook and Twitter handles as part of your own registration.

Dave O'Flanagan, CEO and co-founder of Boxever: A customer can be greeted with a personalised message. This is because “customer intelligence cloud ensures all of those interactions are recorded in one place and provides the ability to anticipate what the customer needs next using the AI engine”.  However, it totally depends on which airline you are using as only some will have the ability to offer a personal greeting based on your history with them. However, many are still struggling with integrating all of their various consumer channels to be able to provide a single customer view in real time. They have antiquated systems and silos of data that they are unable to unlock as most airlines don’t have an end to end CRM. When it comes to tracking every interaction and then reconnecting from where the customer left the last touchpoint or finished a particular experience, not many in the industry have truly achieved this goal, but companies are investing to solve it because there is incredible value in doing this. Our technology essentially connects with every moment in the customer’s journey (online or even in flight or at the check-in desk) using historical and real-time data across all of your consumer channels to provide a better customer experience or true omni-channel personalisation. 

Airlines need to focus on a system that unifies demographic, transactional and behavioural data from silos such as web or mobile clickstream, email campaigns and transactional feeds. We consolidate this data to deliver a detailed picture of every individual customer in real-time. In addition, this customer view isn't limited to only previously identified customers, you can also see every customer that participates in every travel booking. So when a customer starts a new search or is in the early stages of the booking funnel, our system will quickly decide how to handle this specific customer and decide what the most appropriate action should be to increase the likelihood of a sale. This action may include sending a personalised message or personalising the homepage of the airline’s website or retargeting that customer on Facebook as one can work across any platform to deliver true omni-channel personalisation.


Hear from senior industry executives  about personalisation and omnichannel marketing at the upcoming 7th Mega Event Worldwide 2016, The Event for Loyalty, Ancillary & Merchandising & Co-Brands, to be held in Toronto, Canada. (25 -26 October, 2016).

Twitter hashtag: #MegaEvent16

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