Airlines must be losing a lot of money because of IT errors. I know how complex a reservations system is, but experience shows that some airlines have got it, while others regularly turn off passengers with weird errors during the booking process.
Recently, Binter Canarias’ home grown reservations system was down (again). Large queues of people built up at the airport waiting to get a manual boarding pass (that’s why you always need to print out your reservation confirmation!).
Is that a major problem? You may be surprised, but I think this NOT a huge problem because the airline KNOWS that it happened and can take action to correct it.
The real problem is the business lost because of UNKOWN errors.
Most frequent flyers have probably run into situations when the web booking system at some point prevented a ticket purchase, without telling why.
For example, Spanish Star Alliance carrier Spanair has such a buggy software that I occasionally had to buy a more expensive ticket on Iberia because the purchase just did not get through.
Absurdly, after logging into my Spanair frequent flyer account, the system claimed (and claims) a mismatch between my (automatically inserted!) name and my frequent flyer number. The Spanair system is actually designed to not allow me to buy the ticket because of this (self-induced!) relatively minor problem. Even worse, after logging out, the inadequate implementation browser cookies still prevents me from buying the ticket (see illustration).
How many millions of euros is Spanair losing because of bad IT practice and lack of customer listening processes? I told them long ago, but nothing has happened…
What airlines MUST do is thorough testing of their systems. The money lost by system errors is far more worrying than the investment needed to design and test the system to provide a smooth customer experience.
I know that Bill Gates accustomed computer users to act as beta testers for software, but airlines should definitely not follow his example (Apple’s meteoric rise shows that computer users really do not love experimental software releases, not even the “early adaptors”…).
But, of course, errors happen.
Why don’t you INCENTIVATE customers to report the errors they encounter so that you keep them happy, do not lose their business and, most importantly, become aware of your own random errors? That would be Customer Experience Leadership at its best!
Iberia’s low cost affiliate Vueling does one thing right: it places an invitation to chat with a customer rep just on the error message page. That’s smart (Vueling IS actually quite a smart company…). But, will the customer rep only help the customer to finalise his or her booking or will he also report the error to the IT department?
Customer listening and crowdsourcing are two comparatively cheap but efficient methods to not repeat the Spanair online sales system disaster.