Every frequent flyer has one. A cursed airport—one that other flyers breeze through with ease but delays your every flight through its three-lettered airspace.
Mine is CLT—Charlotte Douglas International Airport. I’m not sure what I did to offend CLT’s travel gods, but it seems that I can never fly through there without a delay of some sort. Sometimes, it’s a mechanical issue. Other times, the flight crew fails to materialize. And just last week, some poor soul on my inbound connecting flight had what competitive eaters call “a reversal of fortune.” Cue the Hazmat Team and a 90-minute delay.
Many travel delays are beyond the control of both the airline and the airport, and my guess is that most travelers get this fact. Weather is unpredictable. Mechanical issues are critical to safety. Clean planes are far better than the alternative. What the airlines and airports do control, however, is their communication about the delay—and those who do it best don’t just keep their frustrated customers from boiling over, they also help establish their brands as genuinely committed to customer satisfaction.
Take my latest flight delay as an example. I had thought I had only 40 minutes to make my connecting flight in CLT at a gate all the way across the airport. But my airline sent me a text message notifying me of a 90-minute delay. That single message saved me a futile—and unnecessary—sprint across the airport. Moreover, it kept my expectations about my connecting flight in check. While other flyers pestered the gate agent with questions, I sat content in the knowledge that I was fully informed of the situation.
There’s nothing extraordinary about my situation except that more travelers didn’t receive a direct delay notification. The vast majority of consumers are open to such travel alerts precisely because they save time and frustration. In fact, in our latest research, “The 2012 Channel Preference Survey,” we found that:
The issue isn’t whether the traveling public wants to be informed, it’s whether your travel brand is offering the timely, direct travel alerts via the channels that consumers prefer.
The question you may be asking is whether such alerts are the province of customer service or marketing. My answer is both. Customer service or operations may own the process by which delays are communicated, but marketing owns the fallout. Anything that helps diffuse traveler frustration can only benefit your brand. The key is to optimize travel alerts in six ways:
Nobody likes unexpected changes—especially when their vacations or business meetings are on the line. The good news, however, is that today’s messaging technologies allow travel brands to automate alerts in ways that can dramatically reduce traveler frustrations and allow staff to concentrate on more pressing matters than answering the same question a hundred times. Call it customer service. Call it marketing. Whatever you call it, travel alerts have the potential to reflect positively on your brand to both customers and employees.
And, yes, they also have the potential to keep me coming back to CLT in hopes that my delay curse will, one day, be lifted.