Using Mobile Ethnography to help Airlines better understand key Customer Journey moments.
With the onslaught of budget carriers such as South West and Ryanair, Air travel is becoming more and more commoditised. In such a competitive landscape, it is becoming increasingly important for Premium Airlines to better understand the entire Customer Journey in order to deliver a seamless customer experience that justifies any price differential. Delivering a positive Customer Experience is now more important than ever when it comes to setting Airlines apart from one another.
Mobile Ethnography enables airlines to capture the entire Customer Journey from booking, to leaving home, to getting to the airport, to the in-flight experience and beyond to the passengers final destination.
Airlines must think mobile first for Customer Journey mapping
In today’s mobile first world, where every positive or negative customer experience can be captured and shared instantaneously, it is essential that airlines engage with their passengers using mobile in a manner that is aligned with their customer’s journey instead of interrupting it.
Traditional research methodologies such as intercepts are viewed by passengers as more of a hindrance and, given their short term nature, only capture part of the journey. This leaves airlines with multiple blind spots with respect to what happens across the passenger’s entire customer journey.
By leveraging mobile first methodologies such as Mobile Ethnography or Diary Studies for Customer Journey research, airlines can empower passengers to easily document the positive and negative moments using a Mobile Ethnography app in a manner that is instantly familiar to them. Respondents quickly record context-rich, in-the-moment data with a few taps on their smartphones and get on to the next milestone of their journey.
Mapping the entire Customer Journey using Mobile Ethnography
With the increased importance of both understanding and delivering a memorable customer experience, it is essential for Airline Brands to understand every stage and milestone of the passengers’ journey to ensure standards are consistently met or exceeded.
This includes not only the onboard experience but covers the entire journey from booking the flight to arriving at the destination. Every interaction with a member of the Airline’s staff, airport employees and security personnel can be the making or breaking of a customer’s experience.
Traditional techniques such as satisfaction surveys are typically reflective and post rationalised and do not enable airlines to capture key moments as the happen. In-person ethnographies can be disruptive and have the potential to alter passengers’ typical rituals and natural behaviors.
Supplementing traditional methodologies with mobile ethnography empowers Airline Brands to ‘walk in the shoes’ of their passengers in a non-invasive manner.
This enables them to experience exactly what their customer experiences is from the passenger’s point of view in a media-rich, contextual manner and gives them a deeper understanding of the reality of the passenger’s journey.
Conduct multinational research from the convenience of your desk:
A major advantage of using mobile ethnography in your customer’s experience research is the ability for you to conduct research with multiple passengers travelling multiple routes without ever leaving the office.
Mobile first customer journey research approaches enable you to connect with respondents in multiple locations at the same time without the need to travel and meet them face to face. With respondents on different flights, schedules and time-zones, using mobile doesn’t just cut time and make your Qualitative Research more efficient, it also cuts costs, making it an affordable and scalable option.
The flight is not the journey
Across multiple customer experience research projects for multiple airlines, one thing is very clear. The flight is most definitely not the journey.
From the customer’s perspective, the real journey typically begins with a search on Google, Ctrip, Expedia or Kayak and ends after the passenger has arrived and settled into their destination. The flight is merely part of the experience.
Rather than focusing on just the in-flight experience, Airline Brands need to understand the entire customer journey that passengers go on from start to finish. To do this, research must begin before long they ever reach the airport.
Customer Experience research using Mobile Ethnography
We recommend that airlines recruit respondents as early as possible on their customer journey. This might involve a Qual recruit to source respondents who are thinking about booking a flight to a particular destination or alternatively recruiting passengers from your ticketing system and getting them to engage post-booking and prior to travel.
Once respondents are recruited, we recommend assigning them tasks that are aligned with the natural flow of their journey so as to reduce friction and make it as seamless and logical as possible for them to capture and share their experiences.
If you recruit potential passengers pre-booking, we recommend using our Mobile Screen Recording functionality to get them to record:
How they search for inspiration and select their destinations
How they source the best prices for the flight and accommodation.
Booking flights and accommodations. How was that UX?
Moving beyond the booking, start them with off with a few introductory tasks and let them tell you about their upcoming journey. Specifically you should encourage them to share:
Brief details about their upcoming trip
Why and how did they book? How was that experience?
Are they flying solo or with others
Are they flying for business or pleasure
How they are feeling about their journey at this stage? What are their expectations?
Video based responses can add significant depth at this stage. Using all-at-once tasking enables respondents to see all their tasks from the moment they first login to the app. This allows them to prepare for the tasks ahead without missing any along the way.
Capture key Moments of the Customer Journey
Keeping tasks contextual and granular will ensure respondents can quickly respond to each task and get on with their journey. This will also result in a detailed understanding of each interaction and every key touch point on the customer journey.
From arriving to the airport to boarding the plane, everything pre-flight moment can be documented. Key moments to focus on are:
Travelling to the airport.
How was check-in? Did everything go smoothly?
How did they spend their time before boarding, did they eat or drink in the lounge or did they browse the duty free?
How was the experience between check in and getting on board?
Once onboard the plane, questions can again get a little more specific, breaking them down into granular, easy to follow tasks. Having themes for each task makes them easier for respondents understand and complete.
A pre-take-off task might cover:
Ask them to document the experience of finding their seat and getting settled.
How did they feel?
How was boarding? Were the crew pleasant?
What was their overall experience on the plane before take-off?
While on the flight, tasks might include probing questions such as:
How is the food / service / entertainment?
What about the surroundings?
What is the atmosphere like?
How are they feeling about being on this flight?
Giving passengers the flexibility to respond with any media type they see fit, be it photos / videos with captions or detailed notes can be sometimes be more insightful than forcing them to do a video.
You want to give them the freedom to go “off topic” and surprise you with feedback you might not even have known to ask for.
The best designed studies give respondents the flexibility to share their experience their way without any added pressure of ticking off a long list of specific tasks that may be too narrow and stunted to capture the real experience.
The post-flight Customer Journey
Don’t forget to task your passengers to share their post flight experience. Transport links from the airport to their final destination are all part of their journey and there could be some aspects of their experiences on this phase of their journey that might impact their overall customer experience and by association how they perceive your brand.
Getting post journey insights by setting a series of post-flight reflection tasks lets the respondent look back over their journey and give it one final review.
Once they have arrived at their destination, get them to reflect and share with you anything positive or negative that they consider worth mentioning once they have completed their journey. Understanding the remarkable moments, positive or negative, can be a powerful source of passenger insights.
This reflection task is a chance to get genuine feedback from respondents who have just flown with your Airline. Including it will enrich your Customer Experience Research and highlight any aspects that of the customer journey that need praise or attention. It can also be a powerful addition that brings to life data captured in your NPS or CSAT surveys.
It’s about the Customer Journey, not the destination!
Mobile Ethnography has the potential to significantly enrich and evolve how airlines and their research partners understand their customer experience.
Contextual behaviours, captured in a low friction, mobile first, media rich manner bring the customer to life and help humanise the data that might have been collated using other more quantitative or traditional research methodologies.
By truly understanding the customer experience, from the passnger’s perspective, airlines have the potential to design an improved customer experience which builds both brand loyalty and top line revenue.