In the airline industry, the passenger name record(PNR), is a single record in a computer reservation system that contains a single reservation for one or more passengers.
The problem is that PNRs have no memory. They represent one trip. They do not represent the passenger’s relationship with the airline. For that, in the 80s, airlines initially created frequent flier programs.
Frequent flier programs are loyalty programs that reward travelers for the volume of travel they complete. However, the value of the programs as a loyalty program have eroded by the ability to accumulate status without flying a single mile, through credit card programs and other partnerships. The programs, which were designed to recognize and encourage customer loyalty, seem to have become moneymakers, rather than customer service and retention tools.
The airline industry is not the first to struggle with the issue of wanting to know more about its customers. Most industries spend a large amount on marketing with the goal of attracting customers, however, comparatively little on customer service, which would allow them to retain customers.
British Airways is rolling out a new program, called “Know Me” to provide greater individual service to its customers. Staff using the system, which will be iPad based, will have access to all the passenger data the airline has. They will even add Google Image Search to try and include a photo of the customer, so they can be identified. The airline wants to use the system to personally recognize 4,500 customers per day by the end of the year.
The creepiness factor of a companies creating dossiers on each of their customers aside…bear in mind that many companies already do this. Much of the airline industry, focusing on the reservation as the single unit of customer interaction, and relying on either legacy systems that date back decades, or systems that are successors to same, is behind the rest of the sales world in trying to be aware of who their customers are…at least in the context of their relationship with the airline.
Eliminating the data mining possibilities, which we know are a big business consideration nowadays…selling people based on your analysis of previous behavior, what about the customer service possibilities? What if the airline notices you failed to get your vegetarian meal on the last flight, and makes an extra special effort to ensure it is delivered as promised this time?
Your relationship with the airline should not reset with each new reservation. Some airlines have made some progress with this, but most still approach things from the PNR perspective, as opposed to the customer perspective. Maybe it is time for a change?