AirAsia CX Model: Put People Before Technology

The last couple of years, every industry has had its fair share of pundits, making big-picture predictions about how implementing the 4IR technologies will bring about business growth. But can digital transformation truly deliver?

At Forrester’s recent CX Singapore 2019, AirAsia’s chief customer happiness officer, Adam Geneave, answered in the affirmative without hesitation.

Using the budget airline as a case study, Geneave pointed out that AirAsia had been voted the 'Worlds Best Low-Cost Airline' 11 years running. That AirAsia has embraced digital transformation is in no small way a contributing factor to this incredible feat. Getting ahead in the tech game has allowed the airline to focus more than ever on delivering the best service possible to its 100 million guests yearly.

It is a People-first Business

For all its achievements and accolades, the airline does not see its focal point as technology.

“People are our biggest assets,” stated Geneave. “There are no unions at AirAsia because there is no need for them. Here, it’s people first and then how to drive that cultural transformation at AirAsia.”

According to Geneave, ensuring diversity in its workforce is critical for the Southeast Asian budget carrier, as it can help drive companies to gain better insights into local markets and hence perform better. AirAsia was the first airline to hire a female pilot in Malaysia and currently has the most female pilots anywhere in the world.

That diversity also extends to guests as AirAsia continues to cater to the vast assortment of customer profiles through its Customer Happiness Team.

"What we've been doing are agile projects based on the feedback we've received from customers through our contact channels. Twenty-two million people will speak to the Customer Happiness Team this year, and through that, we capture a lot of data that we then convert into insights to identify what aspects we can work on to help improve the customer journey," Geneave said.

Through Customer 360 sessions which have been held in Malaysia, India, Thailand, China, the Philippines and Indonesia, the team selects as broad a customer base as is possible and actually spends an afternoon with them to work on creating each one of those agile projects. The 18 projects completed so far this year have seen improvements to the AirAsia booking process, website, payment processing, mobile app and other random areas like providing umbrellas at airports during monsoon season. Fail or succeed, each agile project had to be completed within 60 days.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) rates have risen from 60% to 90% with First Contact Resolution (FCR) going up more than 80%. Being “guest-obsessed” has certainly rewarded the low-cost carrier.

Technology Comes Next

Partnering with technology partners gives AirAsia access to leading technologies.

Working with Salesforce for its CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform, complete with three full-time Salesforce partners that actually sit in the AirAsia Office, helps AirAsia create "the best-in-market experiences."

Google’s reporting platforms, which make use of AI technologies, has helped AirAsia significantly in gaining a lot of insights into customer happiness.

By making sure that all parties were involved and that traditional silos were broken down, achieving what Geneave termed “One AirAsia,” successful integration across staff and platforms was achieved. 

However, Geneave was quick to point out that it was customer experience (CX) that was driving business performance and not just cost reductions that new technologies could bring about. Ultimately, it was all about creating a better experience for guests.

Changing Customer Communications

The way customers want to communicate now has changed. While 80% of voice call centers have closed down, WeChat and Whatsapp channels have grown by leaps and bounds, with Wechat having amassed 1.12 billion users. Customers want instant service and are wont to any amount of waiting time.

Enter AirAsia’s AI chatbot, AVA, who can respond to guest inquiries instantly. Speaking eight languages, AVA was built by the AirAsia Software Engineering and Technology and Customer Happiness Team using technology from Ada, which is a Toronto-based company specializing in AI-powered CX.

While most airline chatbots can answer general questions and have some level of integration, AVA has advanced beyond that and can even book flights, add things to bookings like bags, meals, seats, change details and answer an assortment of widely different questions.

“When I was talking about the fact that we can service our customers very quickly now, a lot of that is due to the fact that we can build AVA to the extent that she has such a high deflection rate, such a high satisfaction rate,” Geneave said.

“And she’s able to take a lot of the volume particularly when the airline goes into disruption scenarios where we have a lot of people needing to talk to us very quickly. The current deflection rate we see is 75% which is huge given the large volume of cases that come in.”

With the current leaning towards faster, better experiences, it seems that customer-led changes that would either fail fast or if working well, scale quickly will be leading the charge of CX innovations.