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Self Service

What IT organizations can learn from service failure at airports

By Suzanne Peet on December, 19 2019

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Suzanne Peet

Technical Product Consultant at TOPdesk

Does all this rain and cold make you feel like heading for warmer climes? Or are you planning on visiting family in distant parts during Christmas? Chances are you’ll be travelling by plane.

Regardless of where you depart from or what airline you choose, airports and airlines across the globe are constantly hard at work to ensure that your travel experience is as smooth as possible. From checking in at home to changing your flight using a Facebook chatbot, there’s a lot of self-service in the world of air travel. So, what can IT organizations learn from the airline industry?

A storm cloud hanging over your well-designed service process

At Eindhoven Airport, it has been possible to check in your baggage yourself with the Drop & Go system since 2015. Passengers can check in online and, using their boarding pass, tag and drop off their baggage at the baggage conveyor belt. This self-service option means that fewer check-in counters and service staff are needed. At a small airport like Eindhoven, this is the perfect way to assist more people without the need for more space or staff.

But what happens when the Drop & Go system fails?

In early 2019, the self-service system at Eindhoven Airport broke down three times in a row. Without the Drop & Go system, all passengers had to rely on the service counters to check in. The result? Long queues and passengers venting their displeasure on Twitter. Although the problem was fixed quickly, multiple flights were delayed, some passengers missed their flights, and certain baggage didn’t make it on time for the relevant flight. You can see how a technical glitch can really throw a spanner in the works when it comes to service delivery.

Service failure

Are you prepared for a service failure?

It’s bad enough when your holiday flight is delayed, but it’s even worse when it’s cancelled. Airlines sometimes have to deal with strikes, technical issues, and severe weather conditions. No matter how well-designed the process from check-in to boarding is, a cancelled flight will still affect your passengers’ opinion of your service.

In the world of IT, your service delivery most likely won’t be affected by a snow storm or a pilots’ strike. Still, it’s useful to think about how to deal with unexpected disruptions in your service delivery. How do you log incidents if the internet is down? And have you ever thought about how to contact customers if your email server isn’t working?

The show must go on

Eindhoven Airport didn’t stand by and do nothing when its Drop & Go system failed. After the initial problems, they adjusted their contingency plan for technical issues of the baggage system. Now, their technical support is available 24/7 so the airport staff can immediately report problems. In addition, if necessary, the staff  can lend a hand with collecting baggage, checking it in manually, and taking it to planes themselves. When the third failure occurred, there were fewer delays, no missed flights, and only five suitcases had to be sent on later.

And what do airlines do when they face strikes, technical issues, or snow storms?

With the arrival of apps and chatbots, it’s becoming more and more easy to set up self-service processes that also provide solutions when your normal service is disrupted. For instance, passengers receive a notification if their flight is delayed. If your flight is cancelled, some airlines even display alternative flights, allowing you to change your flight at the click of a button. This saves customer service departments time and effort, helps passengers faster, and gets them to their destination once more.

> More ideas about setting up self-service processes

Help your customers find a plan B (and maybe even a plan C)

What can your service desk learn from how the airline industry deals with disruptions? First of all, it’s important to have a contingency plan in place that allows you to do work manually if necessary, like at Eindhoven Airport. Or it might be an idea to have a few packs of sticky notes on your desk, so you can always write down customers’ questions until you’re back online.

Some disruptions occur more frequently than you’d like, but that does make it easier to implement solutions. Just like airlines allowing customers to change their own flight if a flight is cancelled, you could think about how to design a process in case an application is temporarily unavailable.

Taking self-service to a higher level?

Curious about how you can take your self-service to a higher level? Or how you can use Shift Left to allow customers to find their own answers if you cannot be reached? Check out our self-service e-book.

Get the Self-Service guide

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