Friday, December 31, 2010

What do you know and when did you know it?

In my Architect role at Sabre, I presented the following at theIATA Commercial conference in Istanbul.

“The Joined UP Airline”

I am using two major themes today when discussing the notion of the joined up airline. The first harks back to the Watergate Conspiracy in the 1970s in the USA. The President was asked repeatedly, “What do you know and when did you know it?” The second theme is even older – it is a quotation from the American Humorist and author Mark Twain, “A lie is half way around the world before the truth has its boots on”. These two themes coincide suggesting that carriers “Think like your customers”.

So let’s unpack these thoughts – and I will lead with an example here. The case of the missing bag. The passenger knows the bag is missing only once all the baggage has arrived at the carousel. But you carriers knew a lot earlier. What do you know? That the bag isn’t on the proper flight. When did you know it? When it was not loaded or when it was loaded onto a different flight. That is certainly before the customer can know it.

You now have an annoyed customer with a powerful weapon – the weapon of instant communication. The customer will of course send a message like, “Those idiots lost my bag….again.” That message is heard instantly – before you have had a chance to manage the message. That opinion is heard while you are still handling the problem operationally. Your “truth” is still tying its boots while the negative message is already circulating. Wouldn’t it have been better to use the passenger’s contact data to notify him or her as soon as you knew?. No matter that that the passenger is probably out of electronic communication – at least send the message so that s/he doesn’t have to wait at the carousel. Apologize and offer some kind of trip appropriate/status appropriate recompense. In other words act on the information that you have – and do it as soon as you can.

This approach is at the forefront of Sabre’s SabreSonic CSS solution. That is true Customer Sales and Service. Discover the meaningful happenings and act on them immediately. It looks simple from the outside, but joining up the data is hard. It’s easy for the passenger but hard for systems. The transactional systems are simply not designed (and nor should they be) to do the necessary analysis. However they have the raw information. Making sense out of the raw information and then acting on it in an appropriate way turns the negative into a positive. You may still see the angry posting, but through proactive message management you can do something to handle the “flame”.

Of course this looks like just plain good customer relationship management. And so from a practices point of view it is. Where we have been lacking up to now is to have platforms that collect data as it becomes available, organizes and standardizes it, joins it with other relevant data and delivers that joined up data to action oriented systems according to your policies. SabreSonic CSS does just that. It allows you to do things that you were unable to do before. Imagine having the freedom and flexibility to do business the way you want to. Let’s turn the previously impossible into current and probable. And remember data without action may be interesting but it isn’t useful.