What Is the Seamless Experience of the Autonomous Future Customer?

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    Autonomous Customers, Traveler Privacy and More Questions for CX Professionals in a Changing World

    “As we move toward a more automated culture, most travelers will adapt to a Jetsonian, automated lifestyle.  Every industry we know will be disrupted.  For those of us in aviation, this signals the shift from aviation as a service industry to a transactional one that is potentially devoid of the personal touches that made the romance of flight an event.” So, how do we understand the autonomous customer? And how can we serve them?

    As I board my flight to Denver to speak at the AAAE Conference on “Autonomous Airports,” I can’t help but question. What does autonomous airport really mean? And who is the autonomous customer?

    The customer experience value of an airport itself is not autonomous.  Rather, the emerging autonomous airport experience aims to birth, enable, and empower the autonomous customer. This presents more questions for CX professionals. Especially those in aviation.

    What is an autonomous customer?

    The autonomous customer uses time better. Consequently, the autonomous has more time. Today, we have a “holding room” at airport gates. Even the term sounds limiting. What is a customer supposed to do in a holding room? Be held?

    Autonomous airports are open spaces with no physical or process boundaries between the individual customer touch points. Think check-in, bag drop, etc.  As a result, there is no barrier between crewmember and customer. Eliminating barriers shifts the power from airport procedures and processes to the traveler. This makes travel more enjoyable.

    Because of this customer experience-driven design, the autonomous customer navigates the experience at his/her own pace.  We do not “hold” the customer anywhere. Instead, the airport is a menu of tools and services. The customer has the power to choose. Who wouldn’t want that?

    What about Grandma’s journey?

    Autonomous airports enable both customers and crewmembers. A roving crew has access to more information and more tools on-the-go. This helps them take care of customers of all ages. Especially those who don’t want to (or are not able to) do so themselves.

    Perhaps Grandma will be intimidated the first time (although not all grandmas are alike!). However, she will quickly appreciate the self-driving device that whisks her and her bags from one gate to another in mere minutes.

    What about privacy? Does autonomy mean my airline knows everything about me?

    Autonomy is also about accountability.  On both sides. Customers want information and services at the right times.  It is impossible to deliver that without access to certain customer information or preferences.

    Additionally, customers want seamless journeys across the airport. To design those journeys, airlines and airports must access customer history. For example, if you want the airline to wait for the customer one extra minute at the gate, the airline needs to know the customer is physically at the airport. Even more so, the airline should know if the customer has passed security.

    In the case of JetBlue’s autonomous airport customer experience design, Bag Buddy, one of my ideas, was designed to pick up customer bags at their homes and transport them directly to their destinations. That seamless movement of objects and people rests on the foundations of data sharing. Specifically, it rests on good data that is appropriate and useful in delivering the experience customers want.

    Questions remain. As customer experience experts continue to design autonomous airports and meet the needs of the autonomous customer, new questions arise.  For now, let’s demystify the autonomous airport.

    Information that will allow the airport as a physical asset to expand its boundaries and reach people’s homes is at the heart of the autonomous airport. Data allows physical boundaries to merge. It creates one overall experience of transporting people and their belongings across space. That is a future we all want, Jetsons fans or not.

    How to Use Design and Technology to Transform Autonomous Customer Experiences?

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    Get Customer Experience Basics Right and You Don’t Need to Invest in Wow Moments

    Wow Moments are a Customer Experience hot topic. Customer experience professionals ideate how to build, prioritize, finance, and measure these Wow Moments. Chip and Dan Heath wrote a whole book on the topic: The Power of Moments. No Wow Moment saves you from negative word of mouth if your brand fails to get the customer experience basics right or to deliver the expected brand experience consistently.

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    Organizational Culture and Access to Information

    By and large, people perceive culture as an HR discipline. The most common perception is that culture covers the soft side of performance. Culture is about how you do things, not so much about what you do. This approach to culture could not be more wrong. In fact, organizational culture is about so much more than a few words in a performance review sheet.  It is about leaders expressing values, and the action guidance their cultural behaviors provide.

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