Drivers of Change in the IOC

Several factors have been responsible for the philosophical changes in the IOC itself. First, senior airline management have come to realise the vital role played by the IOC in managing the airline’s assets; a philosophical move away from the perception of the IOC as more of a derivation of costs. Given the ability to touch many parts of the airline in the natural course of its day, the IOC is now recognised as having significant ‘feel’ for airline behaviour and performance. In addition, there is true acceptance by the airline of the vital contribution of the IOC to the bottom line. It has become a centre of excellence. Second, as a nucleus for information and communications, and through its ability to exercise positive control over the airline, the IOC has become a key driver of outcomes crucial to airline performance. It can harness and coordinate a wide range of resources leading to greater efficiencies in the operational space. It can also play its part in helping to drive down operational costs, for example, through better informed and quicker decision-making processes, or the instigation of instruments such as fuel policies to optimise fuel carriage and burn, or perhaps protect against shortages or threats to supply.

As part of its own review of performance, the IOC is able to critique the roles of its membership. For example, it is well placed to influence policy, lobby for changes to crew availability, rostering or rest practices, improvements to schedule, or demands for additional ground resources, as a result of identifying causes underlying or exacerbating disruptions. To substantiate proposals such as these, it now has at hand significant data and other supporting evidence to argue its case.

Toward Customer Centricity

Airline customers understand that at some point in their travel, they are likely to be disrupted. How the airline responds and recovers customer journeys, and in the process, how it treats its customers, are increasingly critical for the reputation of the airline and vital for retaining a loyal customer base. With this renewed emphasis, the focus of the IOC has well and truly been directed toward customer satisfaction. In this digital age, the need for faster and more appropriate decisions, together with optimal solutions that impact the paying public less, have been realised in response to mounting customer pressure. Customers now are not only aware of disruptions as they are occurring, but through social media platforms they can generate and broadcast information as events first materialise or unfold, and then, to a vast worldly audience (including the media). More than ever, they want instant solutions and prompt actions should their travel plans be upset. With their renewed customer focus, IOCs increasingly are now able to do just this. They can respond to situations more efficiently, producing better decision outcomes and disseminating the necessary information through sophisticated communications channels. In a way, what used to take 24 hours may now take 24 seconds. This has a significant impact on the travelling public, provided the customer- recovery processes are sincere in their efforts.

Influence of Social Media

A number of communications platforms have become commonplace on board aircraft. Many airlines have introduced, then enhanced the availability and capability of WIFI, giving passengers real-time information at their fingertips, thus providing them with the ability to remain current with world events. The opportunities this technology provides to enable such communication raise potential issues faced by airlines, such as those concerning security, ethics, confidentiality, or the transmission of socially inappropriate material. With the rapid expansion and influence of social media platforms, airlines have become well aware of the speed and distribution of social messaging in relation to their performance, levels of service, on-board incidents and other events, whether these communiques are negative or positive. Suddenly, airborne communications systems virtually anywhere in the world enable rapid contact with any other party in the world.

Accordingly, many IOCs have embedded social media representation within their centres to maximise awareness of current public sentiment.

Indeed, on occasions, first advice of a situation may be observed through this channel before official intelligence is received. The social media staff monitor a wide range of occurrences on a 24/7 basis to provide real-time information to the IOC, enabling it to respond as necessary. This ongoing process has become a valuable tool for the IOC to waylay misconceptions, ward off negative comment, or simply respond to questions, and the communications can be forwarded broadly or specifically directed to key stakeholders within the airline.

The pattern of influence may also be used another way. Once aware of an impending upset such as a delay or cancellation, for example, the IOC now has the means to be highly proactive, and broadcast intentions via its own social media function prior to individual customers taking their own particular course of action, thereby offering rapid and opportune communication among the airline’s customer base. Even more significant now, is the opportunity for the Customer Journey Management (CJM) team within the IOC to forewarn identified customers about a looming disruption, alerting them perhaps to the need to arrive or checkin early at the airport (or not to travel at all). In some cases, customers may already have been moved onto alternate services. This is a most positive aspect of social media. Customers can be pinpointed according to flight(s), or port of disruption, or by previous recognition per a VIP or CIP (commercially important person) list. This approach to customer journey management charges the IOC with a powerful means of customer benefit not available previously.

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