Boxever and the promise of modern airline customer experiences

I've written extensively about how airlines can provide a better customer experience. Boxever believes it can enable this change to occur.

air new zealand airplane
Credit: Air New Zealand

I fly a ridiculous amount -- last year I got close to half a million miles -- and therefore have a huge amount of time to ponder the experience that passengers receive when flying.

Sadly, much of my time during flights I spend frustrated at what I perceive to be a big gap between customer experience in more modern industries and the experience we receive when flying. Some of this is, of course, related to the fact that when flying we're trapped inside an aluminum tube miles in the sky. We're tired, dehydrated and likely have just experienced a stress of some sort -- not exactly a relaxed and relaxing experience.

But environmental factors notwithstanding, there is so much value that the airline industry leaves on the table. Disconnected systems, legacy processes and siloed information all mean that the myriad opportunities that airlines and other travel-related organizations have to make the experience better are often lost.

This is the problem that Boxever is looking to solve. The Dublin-based company is all about creating opportunities for personalization for airlines and travel companies. The Boxever product, nattily named the Boxever Customer Intelligence Cloud, is used by a number of high-profile airline and travel companies -- Emirates, Air New Zealand and eDreams Odigeo to name but a few. Boxever helps these companies build a global view of an individual customer, apply predictive analysis to their historical actions in order to build personalized marketing offers that lead (hopefully) to better conversion rates.

In talking about the rationale behind the company, CEO and co-founder Dave O'Flanagan commented that:

"My lightbulb moment came years ago while working at a travel tech company. A big airline told me they didn’t know if a given customer booked with them more than once in the same year. That seemed crazy to me -- with all sorts of new technology available and massive amounts of data being collected on customers, how could an airline not know who their repeat customers were? It was then that a sad fact became clear to me: The digital revolution that prompted airlines and other travel providers to enhance their online presence had a significant, unnoticed casualty -- the customer connection."

The focus for O'Flanagan is to deliver something seemingly simple, but actually highly complex: to do for travel what Amazon had done for e-commerce. Fundamentally, Boxever wants to transform how airlines understand, communicate and serve travelers in a way that actually differentiates their brands in the eyes of today’s consumers.

So what does Boxever do to enable this change? Essentially it's all about integration and aggregation. Travel information is generally locked away in a multitude of databases and individual silos.

What this means is that gaining a holistic view of a customer is an impossibility. Boxever allows airlines to integrate all their disparate systems, including those 50 years old legacy mainframe systems. Thereafter it brings all the data together in a single customer view.

O'Flanagan explained to me how this is even more difficult in a travel situation that it is for normal retail. A passenger name record, the electronic record of a passenger booking, for example, has a lead passenger on it, but it may have a bunch of different people on the same record. And there is minimal information identifying the different passengers in terms of their history and status.

Boxever builds a profile for individual customers -- not just the booker but all passengers. Thereafter Boxever allows customers to tailor specific offers to every individual, and in an industry as dynamic as the travel industry, this is particularly important -- prices and inventories are changing on a constant basis and customer offers need to adapt accordingly.

Of course, an obvious criticism is that simply delivering marketing campaigns to individual travellers, no matter how tailored they are, doesn't constitute a step change in the travel experience. The fact of the matter is, however, that customer experience in a travel situation is inextricably linked to information -- if I think about the times I've had an unhappy travel experience, most of those occasions would have been solved by somebody within the airline having exposure to the right sort of information about me.

By aggregating information and deriving insights from it, Boxever is showing airlines and related organizations the value that can be derived from data -- and that's a good thing for every traveler.

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