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PwC study looks at airline performance

Airlines can successfully create more value by adopting retail customer service approaches that address five key behaviors exhibited by flyers, according to New York-based professional services firm PwC US´ Experience Radar 2013: Lessons Learned from the Airlines Industry.

The report highlights key enhancers derived from various consumer behaviors such as balancing technology, listening to feedback, improving comfort, elevating connectivity and bundling fees, based on input from more than 2,000 business and leisure flyers globally.

According to PwC, flyers are increasingly making purchase decisions based on a wide range of features and value enhancers from extended seat space options and priority security line access to mobile ticketing and inflight Wi-Fi availability.

Nine segments across business and leisure flyers, ranging from the elite focused, to the middle-of-the-road business traveler to a deal-seeking, leisure segment, all have distinct travel preferences and are willing to pay for different amenities.

According to the report, studying the individual needs of these nine flyer segments can help airlines better rank their product and service features to identify additional opportunities and bolster top-line growth and bottom-line results.

PwC´s Experience Radar identifies five key behavioral categories among travelers and matches their preferences with leading practices to better enhance the passenger experience:

Technology and automation are changing the ways customers interact with airlines. From check-in to boarding, flyers across the globe are seeking do-it-yourself options.

Time constrained business travelers are particularly active on the DIY front and are 1.8 times more likely than leisure travelers to use mobile for routine booking tasks.

However, direct access to airline staff is just as important, especially at times where issue resolution is needed. In fact, two out of three flyers prefer an agent to help resolve issues such as cancelled or missed flights.

How agents handle these issues is critical to travelers´ experiences and views of an airline, as 49% of airline complaints and issues are said to go unaddressed, according to the report. Empowering agents with the right tools to address issues is paramount, as is the need for airlines to invest in training personnel even as they continue to automate many customer service functions.

Mobile devices are flyers´ number one travel companion–not only for travel-related activities but also for sharing their flight experiences. PwC´s Experience Radar found that only one in five travelers are satisfied with how airlines address their complaints, while 99% of travelers worldwide share memorable experiences with others.

Bad stories are told and retold, with social media giving longer shelf life to these negative experiences. Since social media can intensify and lengthen negative impact, airlines should proactively listen to passengers through multiple channels to detect and resolve issues early, and utilize dynamic influencer programs to encourage positive brand development.

Flyers now seek an array of options, finding comfort not only in seating preferences but also in food, entertainment and the option to be able to sit next to travel companions. Most leisure travelers want more space, though how much they are willing to pay varies.

PwC´s Transportation and Logistics practice is composed of a global network of industry professionals who provide assurance, tax, and advisory services to public and private transportation and logistics companies around the world.

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