Call centres, or contact centres as they are frequently referred to as, never get as much publicity in the airline direct sales channel world as the web sites. Obviously the innovation is less, but it is still there. Maybe part of the reason is that it is a but hard to take a screen shot and post it! Today I saw an article (or maybe it was just lifted from a press release) about Amercian Airlines about some new technology they have implemented from a recently acquired Microsoft company called Tellme. 

They can list up to three phone numbers from which they’ll call the airline. If the customer is booked on a flight that day, the system will offer gate and flight information without prompting, the airline said.

 Any technology that cuts down on non revenue producing calls to the calls centres has to be applauded. Some of the most efficienct airline call centres I’ve seen have been the ones that have worked hand in hand with their internet colleagues to move as much servicing as possible from call centre to website. But taking the American example above, I’d love to know how many people still call for gate numbers and flight times versus those that get it offline or have it pushed to their smart phone. I would guess that the frequent travellers who have registered up to three phone numbers with American are more likely to get this info via other means, and it is the once a year holiday makers who calls every day in the lead up to departure to confirm their booking and ask incessant inane questions.

Which brings me back to an earlier post regarding KLM and their online servicing pages. I was really impressed with the options to choose type of notification received and method of delivery, but unfortunately I never received anything after signing up. I was supposed to get an SMS announcing boarding had started, but sometimes SMS get lost when roaming, so I’ll give KLM the benefit of the doubt on that one. And the emails I signed up for were all delay related, and luckily my flight was on time so I didn’t get these either. The point is that as a frequent traveller, this is a service I really appreciate. And from talking to airlines, one thing I know is that the best way to move servicing out of the call centre and onto the web is to start charging for it – or otherwsie, I of know one airline that for some new functionality, only makes it available on the web, and if people call the call centre they are told that service is only available if they go to the Manage my Booking page online. Now that is a great way to push those “high cost to service” luddites online.