Talk of the digital transformation has been abundant among stakeholders of any industry for years if not decades. What, in exact terms, encompasses digital transformations remains vague and varies from party to party. In its simplest terms, a digital transformation is exactly what it sounds like: a conversion from analog processes to digital ones.
For some, a digital transformation consists of more simple adoptions of already existing technology and technological processes. For others, especially leaders in the tech industry, a digital transformation is more of a mindset wherein they are always searching for opportunities to innovate and transform. A survey conducted by Zippia found that 56% of business leaders consider executing on a digital transformation to be among their top priorities, and a further 87% believe digital transformation will disrupt their industry. In an increasingly tech-driven world, business strategies need to be specific and deliberate to keep a business ahead of the curve instead of trailing behind.
Although the air travel industry consists of many different businesses sharing space in the world’s airports, the basic features of any given airline are all similar. For the most part, the journey from booking a ticket through retrieving luggage off the carousel has the same rhythm, but there are some processes that would benefit from a digital transformation, and others are still in desperate need of one. World over, airports are often the sites where some of the angriest outbursts tend to rear their ugly heads. Though there are few founded excuses for bad behavior, airports tend to make hot heads hotter through stressful and frustrating exchanges. There is ample room to smooth over rough patches with digital tools.
From the outset, customers selecting and booking their travel could avoid any potential annoyances when airlines ensure their websites are supported by large enough servers to accommodate for digital crowds that will only increase in the coming years. From there, employing the use of an automated queuing system can alleviate the pressure created by digital crowds by giving users the option to track their spot in line and can alert them once their turn nears. In the physical airports, the innovations should continue. Already ubiquitous are the practices of pre-downloading digital boarding passes and using digital kiosks to print baggage tags, but why not take it a step further by leveraging similar technology used on websites to upgrade in-person experiences.
A digital transformation could completely revolutionize the air travel experience. Imagine a solution that predicts, prepares for and accommodates capacity surges whether from seasonal demand, inclement weather or anything else. Imagine a solution primed to respond to disruptions instantaneously through a series of pre-approved pathways. Instead of the stress of an unpredicted situation resulting in a long line of already disgruntled passengers expecting immediate answers, travelers could be continually notified in accordance with an evolving situation, then if necessary, sent through the proper channels to reroute, rebook, or find a place to stay the night all at the tips of their fingers. Even ground operations could be improved with the right solutions to help with streamlining.
There is plenty to be done to future-proof the air travel experience. Answering the question of what to do is easier, but more difficult is solving the problem of how. Look no further than the now tried and true warp speed mindset. Although the term warp speed came into fruition after being fairly successfully applied to the race to create and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine known as “Operation Warp Speed,” the business world has taken note. The warp speed mindset has a few defining characteristics: singlemindedness, detailed scheduling, interdepartmental buy-in, and, obviously, speed. All of this makes for a very compelling business strategy companies could use to tackle big, transformative projects. Applying that mindset to approach a digital transformation for an airline could be revolutionary, especially with the right tech partners who can also adopt the warp speed mindset while also separating the good ideas from the trendy ones.
Digital progress is fast, but it is also filled with red herrings. Tech trends rise and fall with such haste that even experts sometimes have difficulty accurately predicting which developments have staying power and which are destined to fade into obscurity. The trick here is to rely on practical solutions rooted in best practices rather than anything unproven. Technological solutions should lubricate slower processes and optimize clunky ones. The solutions chosen should make sense and be intuitive to the end user. Implementing a digital transformation will require a significant investment of time, money and labor, which will only pay off if the solutions make air travel easier from the outset and do not require additional and unwanted investment into instructing customers how to benefit from the changes. Looking at the case of Operation Warp Speed, the same was and is true there. In order to move as efficiently and effectively as possible, real critical thought had to be applied and followed to choose the most viable path forward.
If an airline wants to get on the cutting edge and stay there, getting there is not only possible, but brimming with innovative potential. Choose the right technological partner and guide, then get buy-in from stakeholders across all functions at the company. Total participation is the name of the game here. With everyone on board and reliable solutions identified, it’s time to commence warp speed. In doing so, there are sure to be tangential benefits. Aside from reaching the goal of preparing a business for the future of industry, there is also sense of community created when employees across the board all see their impact reflected in the work to achieve a common goal.
More and more Americans are returning to their regular flying habits as restrictions lift and the appetite to travel is strong. Over time, the industry will likely recuperate and may even exceed previous norms. The time is now for sound strategies to improve passenger experiences, safeguard against future uncertainties, and to exploit new efficiencies for lower costs and greater rewards. This is the way to fly forward.
Charlie Meyer is the senior VP of sales and leads the North American sales team at QLess. With more than 20 years of sales leadership experience in enterprise and SaaS software, Meyer brings a wealth of sales and leadership guidance to the growing company and market.