What happens when you cross a group of business execs on a hectic schedule with a disrupted flight?
The answer is obvious.
You get an angry mob with an oversized influence on your bottom-line queuing up to patronize your competitor while simultaneously berating you on social media.
You can imagine for yourself the nightmarish scenario you will find yourself in if by chance the flights are delayed or canceled for a bunch of religious pilgrims or vacationers. The financial damage will be comparatively less, but your reputation will tank nonetheless from all the negative press you will get on social media.
This may even have happened to your airline, and you may have experienced a mad scramble to provide support to countless angry passengers and deal with their rebooking or cancellation requests.
Can things be better? How can an airline deal effectively with the fallout from disruptions on lucrative group bookings?
It is near impossible to avoid flight disruptions or even predict when one will occur. The solution lies in managing disruptions efficiently, keeping in mind both the profits of the airline and customer experience.
But this is easier said than done.
Traditional Methods Of Managing Groups During Airline Disruptions —And Why They Will Not Work
Even with the COVID-19 pandemic raging in 2020, the number of people who took to the skies was 1.8 billion. The number will steeply rise in the coming months and years as lockdown restrictions are lifted across the world. To keep up with the demand for disruption management solutions, airlines must find ways to tackle the disadvantages of the legacy methods that are as follows:
The highly chaotic manual method of informing passengers of delays or cancellations
When there is a delay of some sort in your flights, the least you can do is inform the passengers so that they will not arrive hours earlier and sit fuming in the airport. Using the old-fashioned method of reaching out to one customer at a time is a tedious process that is also prone to errors.
Near Impossibility Of Dealing With Multiple Channels
When a group gets to know they will not be boarding at the promised time, there is no telling what the reaction will look like. Some will take to venting on social media while others will write long-winded emails to customer support. Some people will give you a call on your customer support number.
If you are not prepared to simultaneously tackle this large volume of customer support requests, you are bound to lose customer goodwill.
Time-Consuming Manual Rebooking/ Cancellation Process
During a disruption, you can be sure that your helpdesk will be flooded with support requests from frantic passengers desperate to know what is going on with their flight. The volume of calls, emails, and social media messages you get will surely overwhelm your customer support agents, create great confusion when it comes to rebooking/ cancelling, and undoubtedly lead to extremely unhappy customers who will think twice about using your services again.
Benefits Of Automation In Dealing With Group Bookings Of Disrupted Flights
When there is a flight disruption and you have a group booking on your hands, the first thing you need to consider is how to prevent the ensuing chaos when the passengers learn that their plans have been spoiled through no fault of theirs. Sending them an email or an SMS with a generic apology will not cut it.
Matter of fact, it is a recipe for unmitigated disaster. A disaster you will remember for a long time.
More importantly, it will be a disaster that potential customers will associate your name with.
Preventing all this requires a lightning speed response to flight disruption along with a level of personalized customer support that is unprecedented.
Now, is that even possible?
This is where automation comes in.
With the right airline disruption management solution that integrates with the group booking software, passengers can be provided with personalized notifications of disruptions, real-time support, the ability to rebook or cancel flights on their own, and the option of instant refunds if they need them.
Here is how such a solution can transform your operations and redefine customer experience.
Instantly Notify Your Passengers Of Disruptions
The last thing you want on your hands is a group of angry passengers in the lobby complaining that they were not informed of the flight delay. Upset passengers busying up your airport staff asking for more information or demanding refunds can throw a wrench in your day-to-day operations.
It is hence prudent to automate the notifications about flight disruptions and ensure customers get the message via multiple channels, such as email and SMS. They will appreciate the effort you put into informing them. Moreover, a timely warning that the flight will not be available will prevent them from coming to the airport earlier and wasting their time.
Make Your Customers' Life Easy With Automatic Rescheduling And Cancellation Options
A stranded passenger’s biggest frustration is that he lost control over his schedule through no fault of his own. Giving the passenger the ability to automatically reschedule or cancel their flights and get a refund through a self-service portal is a great way to make them feel in control of the situation.
The process must be automatic; the last thing a customer wants when their schedule is disrupted is to wait in a queue to reach customer support.
Leave No Passenger Behind
When it comes to group bookings, you will see two types of passengers—one that proactively uses your self-service portal to rebook or cancel their tickets and another that is blissfully unaware of the flight disruption.
If you can provide automated flight rebooking or cancellation to the first type, then your customer support agents will be free to call the passengers who fall into the second category and take care of their needs, which will invariably delight them.
With group bookings, there is the issue of getting multiple support requests simultaneously for the same issue. Having a dedicated support team is great, but it is no match for an omnichannel, automated support solution that can answer passengers in multiple languages.
During disruption, there is bound to be chaos in reassigning passengers to various flights. If you use AI, you can direct passengers to your flights that have low occupancy, which will free up demand on the overbooked flights and add to your bottom-line. Most significantly, you can do so without diminishing customer satisfaction.
Reduced Support Staff Requirements
Automate your customer support with AI-powered chatbots that never tire, no matter how harsh the customers are with their questions. Moreover, you can widen the range of the support questions the chatbots can answer, by using a comprehensive knowledge base with all the common questions that passengers ask during a disruption.
No doubt, the future of airline disruption management, especially for group bookings, is digital. Adopting automation for dealing with the group booking passengers during disruptions with a relatively small investment can go a long way in alleviating their frustration and preventing them from switching over to your competitors.