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How AirAsia streamlined its customer service

Integrating multiple customer touch points with Salesforce has enabled Asia’s leading low-cost carrier to shorten waiting time and improve customer service

With six call centres handling multiple customer touch points – including web forms, live chat, social media and telephone – across Asia, low-cost airline AirAsia could not obtain a single view of its customer interactions that was necessary to serve its customers better.

“If someone called our call centre in Manila yesterday and has another conversation with our live chat team in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow, we wouldn’t have the history or knowledge about that customer,” said Adam Geneave, chief customer happiness officer at AirAsia.

This was because AirAsia was using siloed systems with varying degrees of compatibility with one another to power different communications channels, Geneave said, adding that there was an urgent need to get every slice of information about a customer into one platform.

In early 2017, AirAsia decided to turn to Salesforce Service Cloud to bring all customer communication channels into a single cloud-based service. Geneave said the decision was made before he joined AirAsia about a year ago.

“Salesforce not only helps us to deliver a multi-channel experience for customers; it also gives us a single platform for different parts of the business including sales and marketing,” Geneave said. “Even our legal team uses it for their legal management system.”

Geneave said AirAsia’s move to Salesforce also marked the beginning of its focus on messaging systems from the likes of Facebook and Tencent that customers increasingly prefer to use to engage with brands. In China, for example, AirAsia is using Tencent’s WeChat to communicate with customers via a plugin developed by a Salesforce partner.

Asked about the challenges in integrating all of AirAsia’s customer service platforms including its chatbots and reservation system with Salesforce, Geneave said apart from using application programming interfaces (APIs), the airline worked with onsite Salesforce experts to carry out the integration.

Deploying Salesforce was not a case of slapping on new digital lipstick. AirAsia also took the opportunity to tweak its customer service processes. Frontline employees, for example, are now empowered to resolve customer issues without the need to seek multiple levels of approvals, Geneave said.

That entails training frontline staff on product knowledge and communications styles, including tone of voice, so that they can humanise customer interactions in their own ways across a plethora of channels.

“Now, the emails we’re sending aren’t so much about the formal ‘Dear Sir’ stuff – our service teams have been able to inject their personalities into their e-mails because they have been trained on empathy and how to care for our customers.”

Geneave said each customer conversation is monitored by a command centre where duty managers will coach those in the service crew whose conversations may not be in line with AirAsia’s brand voice.

Some 18 months into its Salesforce deployment, AirAsia has been reaping returns with a customer satisfaction rate of well over 90%, according to Geneave. The company was recently crowned the world’s best low-cost airline for the 11th year running in the Skytrax World Airline Awards 2019.

“If you look at where we were 12 months ago, there were excessive wait times and we had poor customer satisfaction,” Geneave said. “Today, the wait time for live chat is instant and it’s a couple of minutes for social media.”

According to a recent Salesforce study, a majority of customers polled across 16 countries in Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America said they expect timely and connected experiences where their preferences are known across multiple touch points.

In Singapore, 71% of customers expect companies to interact with them in real time and 70% of customers said companies need to transform how they engage with them.

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