Attention Airlines: To Avoid Calls and Customer Losses, Keep Washrooms Free...

| Contact Center/CRM Views and Analysis

Attention Airlines: To Avoid Calls and Customer Losses, Keep Washrooms Free...

One of the more sensible new mantras in the contact center field is call avoidance: namely taking steps to prevent calls from customers from occurring. Call avoidance saves money and bolsters revenue by reducing contact handling costs and by improving customer satisfaction and retention by tackling their issues head on before they become problems.

Outbound messaging and notification, which will be covered in the April issue of Customer Interaction Solutions is one technique.

Another, and much more effective, is discovering and preventing the problems and issues that prompted the calls in the first place.

In the spirit of aiding the already beleaguered airline industry and its roster of many fine people still working for it, including in contact centers, here is a great opportunity to practice call avoidance: flush into the 'blue ice' chamber consideration of charging customers to use in-flight toilets that was raised last week by Irish deep-discount carrier Ryanair. Yes, according to Reuters the airline's CEO may be making this stuff up to get PR: but the world is littered with dumb ideas that have taken hold because of someone's musings.

I am taking this pre-emptive move because if this idea takes hold, airlines, desperate for coin and cost savings, would bolt the devices to the washroom doors faster than a 737 taking off from that aircraft-carrier-disguised-as-an-airport known as LaGuardia. The irate calls, e-mails, and faxes that would, well...flow...are the teleservices firms and IVR/speech rec firms such as Microsoft subsidiary Tellme and other outfits likeWest Interactive ready?

After all, look at what happened with food, baggage, and other features once known as amenities--charging for which many people too had thought was stupid--and which take in cash, no doubt like the infamous ' plus sales and handling' on direct marketed items going back to the 'bottom' line. There are probably at this writing engineers working on CAD/CAMs with lightweight, difficult to tamper (or rip off) payment card-accepting devices for the toilets. The profits that can be made on transcon and intercom flights, and to family destinations like make the revenues (ahem) flow to less popular locales maybe the carriers can cut the price of beer...

There are other and customer-friendlier moves the airlines can make to cut costs. Among them:

* Partnering rather than fighting Amtrak (and VIA Rail in Canada) and the bus companies to provide single-ticket short-haul ground spokes instead of connecting flights. There are a few North American airports with rail access or decent proximity to rail lines, like Philly (the only one with a train station inside), Newark, BWI, O'Hare, Providence, San Diego, Sea-Tac, Montreal (Pierre Elliott Trudeau/Dorval) and Toronto (Pearson). The move would cut costs, and ticket prices with the dividends of reducing flight delays and harmful emissions. Short-haul takeoffs and landings chew up runway capacity and spew much more pollutants per passenger-mile than medium to long-haul flights

* Move airline customer service and reservations to a great source of low-cost/high productivity, and extremely knowledgeable potential at-home agents: retired flight attendants, pilots, and customer service personnel

* Devise a lightweight, ergonomically sound non-reclining seat. The recliners on board aircraft create more customer discomfort i.e. breaking the kneecaps and getting too up-close-and-personal with the customers behind than they are worth in supposedly adding comfort. And they are a maintenance headache

On the other hand, installing pay toilets on airplanes maybe just the kickstart the bus companies need to scoop up customers: Amtrak is already popular and the Obama Administration plans to pour more money into it. Such a move by the carriers would also make it a great time to buy shares in firms like Cisco and Logitech. One more reason not to fly and to conference and meet-by-video instead...

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