Frontier’s decision to go fully digital and drop its customer service phone lines may, on the face of it, seem like a company moving with the times.
Phone channels have been the critical entry point to customer service for decades, but they are often a significant pain point for customers and brands alike, with lengthy wait times and high costs.
The evolution of technology and consumer expectations has made the notion of 9-5 customer service somewhat outdated, and digital strategies will play a key role in modernising a business’ approach to customer communication and improving the experience. With our Convers-AI-tional Nation report revealing that just 20% of travel companies provide 24-hour customer support and 48% are contactable during office hours, Frontier’s decision to focus on its digital infrastructure will help address these longstanding communication issues by reaching more customers in a broader range of online platforms.
That said, Frontier should be wary that customers have reasonable expectations regarding the ease with which they can find basic information from a brand and speak to a human agent where required. Being responsive to these expectations should not involve reducing the number of communication channels offered to customers. Instead, integrating existing entry points and using conversational AI tools to help fix the day-to-day problems customers encounter will be a strategy that drives a better and more positive experience.
Implementing a fully digital strategy is becoming more common for businesses, especially in the face of rapid digitalisation. Whilst it is crucial for airlines to create more digital entry points to meet modern consumers where they are, it is equally essential for airlines like Frontier to recognise that the appetite for traditional communication methods with customer service agents remains. Indeed, our research revealed that 67% of UK consumers prefer customer service via phone; eliminating such methods comes with the potential risk of alienating customers. This is something that brands must carefully consider to ensure that they are providing options to suit all consumers.
To respond to as many passengers as possible, Frontier should provide customers with various options by taking a flexible approach. In an ideal world, this will involve marrying support from human agents with technological solutions like chatbots and live chat. With just over a third (36%) of leading airlines currently using live chat to help field consumer queries and only 4% offering customer service support via WhatsApp, the gaps in communication and subsequent merits of a digital strategy are clear. To ensure that it meets passengers’ needs, Frontier should look to optimise a diverse range of communication channels to facilitate a smoother experience and bring internal cost reduction.
While the trend towards digitalisation is expected to continue, implementing a combination of automated and human-serviced channels will ultimately provide passengers with more entry points and afford airlines greater scope to respond. The efficacy of this joint approach is straightforward; although just one in three (32%) leading travel companies currently offer human and bot-serviced communications channels, our research found that these companies were able to provide faster or more effective answers in 59% of cases.
Ultimately, customers should always be able to reach a brand on the channel they choose – whether it’s an AI Chatbot, Facebook Messenger responses or a human agent, fast and effective responses to basic customer service questions should be guaranteed. As long as airlines continue to provide customers with the option of both automated customer service channels to provide information without delay and access to human agents to deal with more in-depth enquiries, the impact of removing the phone line will be minimal. For others, integration, as opposed to channel elimination, is a more effective strategy for improving customer experience and enabling business growth.
About the Author
James Matthews is Country Manager UK & Ireland at CM.com.