What Retailers Can Learn About Customer Retention From the Latest Airline Mega Merger
The airlines already have the needed insights in the data collected through their loyalty programs to identify which services or products are most relevant to their best customers. By expanding the rewards selection, they could capitalize on these insights to enrich the customer experience while not putting added pressure on their route structure.
Some examples of how the points could be used include the following:
- airport parking;
- baggage delivery from the airport to the traveler's final destination;
- food and drinks in the airport or on the flight;
- access to airline VIP lounges; and
- transportation from the airport.
In addition to expanding reward offerings, it's critical for the airlines to preserve or enhance membership status. They should assign a team to bolster consumer confidence in their access to frequent flyer offerings. Synchronized messaging across the organization should serve to regularly assure passengers that their status in a new program will be maintained — and potentially enhanced if they were members of both programs and had been splitting their activity.
American and US Airways need to stay on their passengers’ radars. They shouldn't leave loyalty members guessing, ever. They must provide timely, relevant information about frequent flyer program changes via communication channels preferred by individual flyers, including email, online, direct mail, mobile.
The combined airline should use the data gleaned from travel patterns to tell the Seattle-to-Toronto flyer specifically how program changes will affect her travel plans in good ways. It should create a dedicated website and hotline, and monitor social media and call-center activity to gain insights from customer comments.
Finally, American and US Airways should be ready to buckle up in case of rough patches. The two carriers should prepare themselves for potential issues involving lost bags, delayed or canceled flights, or untracked miles. While it's essential to take care of all customers, the new airline should be especially fortified to manage the experiences of its best customers. They use the airline the most, and therefore are most likely to encounter any rough patches in the merger. The airlines must be ready with relevant makeup offers (e.g., bonus miles) and personalized notes apologizing for any inconveniences. With well-timed, relevant messages, the likelihood that brand advocates become "madvocates" can be quickly diminished.