Singapore headquartered consultancy firm SimpliFlying advises airline and airport professionals on how to understand and engage with their customers, and achieve business goals by leveraging the platform of social media. There are MasterClasses for vice-presidents, directors and executives in corporate communications, eCommerce or marketing in airlines and airports. “For a successful customer engagement strategy, the understanding between the upper management and the executives who will be executing the strategy needs to be aligned from the very start,” says Shashank Nigam, CEO and founder, SimpliFlying.
In India, SimpliFlying has worked with Jet Airways and SpiceJet. Globally, the company has been associated with over 25 airlines and airports, including Lufthansa, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines, LAN Airlines, airBaltic, Airbus, Toronto Pearson International Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport. “While we have very close relationships with major Indian airlines and airports, we have a global focus for our consulting and training practices,” mentions Nigam.
Understanding the customer
Nigam points out that while the airlines and airports are traditionally conservative when it comes to marketing, technological advances in social media have disrupted the industry. In an era of the connected traveller it is important for airlines and airports understand this new traveller and get ahead of their competition by engaging these customers profitably. In The Connected Traveller Lifecycle developed by SimpliFlying, he goes through four stages: he dreams of a trip, plans the trip, books the trip and finally travels. “At each stage, he can influence his friends by sharing information on his social networks, thereby amplifying the potential contribution to an airline’s bottom line,” mentions Nigam, not forgetting to add that to airlines, the social era may be frightening for an industry that has traditionally held strict control over marketing and operations. But it has also given airlines the unique opportunity to understand what drives customer actions and repeat purchases better than ever before.
SimpliFlying’s research with Cranfield Univerisity has shown that there is a strong indication of frequent fliers’ being almost twice as active on social media as regular users. “In fact, 72 per cent of frequent fliers said they would join a social loyalty programme. This has great implications towards airlines’ current customer service and loyalty initiatives. To stay relevant to this new customer behaviour and to grow profits for the organisation, airlines need to start innovating their customer engagement strategy,” states Nigam.
SimpliFlying has topical MasterClasses that are a one to two-day hands-on workshop. These include introduction for participants who may be unfamiliar with social media, real-world case studies, high-level discussions, interactive group exercises and simulations. “There are over 50 innovative airline case studies and 10 hands-on social media tools that the participants try themselves. The topics of our MasterClasses include Crisis Management, Loyalty, Social Customer Service, Social Media Benchmarking and an crash course covering all grounds for agencies,” says Nigam.
Not surprisingly, the MasterClasses are personalised for each airline. “In our MasterClass exercises, participants will discuss and adapt specific case-studies that are relevant to their airline and market, then open it to the floor for a more compelling discussion,” states Nigam, adding that very often, these discussions go on to form the basis for new programmes under the airline’s customer engagement strategy.
The company has recently launched a special MasterClass for agencies, specifically for account managers and creative directors. “This is especially useful for agencies that are currently serving airlines or airports, or agencies that are looking to pitch new businesses to potential airlines or airports as it gives them a deep-dive into the world of aviation,” adds Nigam.
The company’s most successful projects have been consulting for Jet Airways and SpiceJet in India. “SpiceJet engaged us as a trusted advisor for customer engagement optimisation for the launch of its Bombardier Q400 aircraft in the Indian market. SpiceJet wanted to convince Indians, who typically have not been the most keen to fly turbo-props, to overcome the entrenched mindset. In addition, there was a need to create destination awareness as SpiceJet was not flying these planes on major routes within India. Over a period of six months, SimpliFlying helped SpiceJet to specifically target niche segments through social media and leverage on a customer-to-customer education model. As a result, SpiceJet achieved 88 per cent load factor for five newly launched destinations, all within the first two weeks of launching Bombardier Q400 in India,” he states.
Considering the fact that most Indian travellers are well educated, carry mobile phones and are constantly connected to the internet, Nigam feels that while airlines in India have some sort of social media presence, but are not necessarily driving results from their efforts – like building loyalty or providing customer service. The Benchmarking MasterClass can help them assess how they are doing in comparison to their competition, and at the same time look to help them drive specific results from social media by engaging the connected traveller.