CRM flies high for Thanksgiving

With the holiday travel rush coming to an end, I’ve decided to take a few minutes to comment on the performance of the airline industry, especially seeing that I was one of millions who were on an airplane within the last week. All in all, the airlines performed well. While the opening of military airspace can be partly thanked, it also seems that airlines are starting to get the hang of this concept called CRM. It comes not a moment too late, as airline travel is starting to approach pre-September 11th levels.

Being based out of New Jersey, I typically fly Continental Airlines from Newark International Airport, both for business and pleasure. Taken as a whole, Continental provided a good experience, recognizing me as one of their more frequent flyers when I checked in. It was a reassuring interaction that helped solidify my feelings that Continental is a solid airline that I’d be happy to do repeat business with.

So why, you ask, am I ranting on about this? Because while service has been stepped up, there’s still room for improvement. This morning I read a study conducted by Eyefortravel.com that stated that although improved databases are allowing airlines to identify above 90 percent of all the customers who get on their planes, many are still hampered by siloed information and the need to unify customer data. I could not agree more, as upon checking in this past week, the service rep assisting me had me temporarily confused with my father, no doubt due to the same last names and the fact he was flying that day as well on a separate Continental flight. While hardly a deal-breaker, I believe this an example that airlines must be ready to take their CRM practices beyond low fares into the realm of enhanced and efficient airport check-in procedures and additional services. And with the next generation of CRM solutions and best practices focused as much on customer experience and customizable software, CRM vendors are starting to provide the tools that represent one of the critical first steps in improving customer experience for an industry that lives and dies by keeping customers satisfied.