What Airlines Can Teach Us About Automation

By jseevers · PUBLISHED May 11, 2017 · UPDATED May 11, 2017

Unless you’ve been avoiding the news for the last couple of weeks, you’ve most likely seen all sorts of troubling stories surrounding customers who have been treated poorly by various airlines. If you’ve missed them here are a few;

California Family Kicked Off Delta Flight After Argument Over Toddler’s Seat

American Airlines investigates after video shows mom in tears

Delta Employees Asked Man to Leave Flight After Using Restroom

United Airlines Passenger Is Dragged From an Overbooked Flight

I don’t share these incidents to bring judgement upon the airlines or its passengers. The reason I share this is because I think as marketers, we can learn a lot from these situations. We can learn from innovative successes and groundbreaking products, as well as communication breakdowns and errors in judgement. Each of these stories should cause us to reflect and have meaningful discussions in our businesses.

As we consider each of these incidents, what is one thing they have in common? They reflect a breakdown in the customer journey. You’re likely saying, “Yes, we know all about the customer journey, there’s no problem here. We understand the touchpoints, as well as how we engage customers along each step of that journey.” That's great. However, have you put your customer journey in front of your customer? Would they agree with each touchpoint? Have you considered missing touchpoints that maybe only your customer sees? The director of marketing at each of these airlines likely did not see the journey that included unhappy customers that are asked to voluntarily leave their flights each and every day.

So what does this mean for our marketing automation efforts? We should consider this a wake up call to how we engage our customers at each and every step and with each and every interaction. And that includes the interactions we may not always see or acknowledge.

  • Re-assess the Customer Journey:

    Your customer and marketplace are not, and should not be, static. If the way your customers find, access or engage you continues to evolve, then so should your customer journey.

    “A customer is never on a predetermined course – they are unpredictable! By ‘understanding the customer journey’ brands run the risk of pigeon holing their customers and losing them, by trying to control the process.” (source)

    This is significant. Don’t get lulled to sleep by believing that once you’ve outlined your customer journey that it is in “set it and forget” mode. There is a risk to not consistently evaluating each touchpoint. Even touchpoints you think don’t exist.

  • Review the Data and Verify:

    One of the most valuable elements of marketing automation is the ability to segment and communicate directly to the needs of our audience. But how often are we reviewing the data and verifying that the value is meaningful?

    “If the enterprise does not augment the product experience with accurate, timely, and relevant information (according to the user’s location, channel and time of usage), users will be left dissatisfied, disoriented, and disengaged.” (source)

    Don’t forget to periodically monitor click throughs and open rates to ensure your content is adding value to your segments at each and every stage.

  • Find the Gaps:

    As you reassess your customer journey, not only must you constantly be speaking with you customer facing team, but you must be speaking directly with customers at each stage of the customer journey. Why did that potential customer not place an order? Were there unmet needs? Are there touchpoints that we haven’t addressed?

    “As part of this 360-degree view of the customer, brands need to connect data from both physical and digital touchpoints in order to bridge the gap between the two.” (source)

    These gaps reside in our day-to-day interactions with customers, but also in the digital handoffs that occur as we provide our products and services.

  • Add Value at Every Stage:

    Whether your customers are loyal or encounter an unforeseen roadblock, it is incumbent upon you to add value. We are in a sharing economy. The challenge we face as marketers is that every potential customer should be seen as a potential advocate for our business whether they are a customer or not.

    “The art of creating added value starts with the ability to see your business through the eyes of your customers.” (source)

    So walk in their shoes, talk with them directly. Sometimes the best data is not in a report, but directly interacting with the people you serve.

In summary, what can we learn from the challenges airlines have been experiencing over the past couple of weeks? That no matter how long you’ve been doing business, and what you think you know about your customers, there is always an opportunity to learn more and improve the customer journey before, during and after they interact with your business.

For more information about how to create your own custom journey in Mautic, check out our video on the subject.