This year JetBlue entered the ranks of the innovators who disrupt industries and not only imagine the future, but also build it. With our award winning facial recognition boarding technology we were able to provide a preview to our customers of what traveling will be in the future. The fact that JetBlue’s facial recognition trial was named as one of the 100 greatest innovations of 2017 by Popular Science was one of the many signs we received about the excitement of the public about innovation in the airline space. JetBlue realized that our customers are not only ready, but also eager to step into a world of new experiences that are personal, helpful, and simple.
So why is it so hard to eliminate the friction points on the travel journey and enable repeatable, intuitive, and empathetic experiences when we fly?
Variability is almost impossible to manage
In the book “Uncommon Service” Frances Frei and Anne Morriss lay a whole customer management process for successful brands. They present several examples of Progressive Insurance and Shouldice Hospital where through different processes these organizations are able to select the right customers for the experiences they have built. Airlines cannot do that. We cannot choose who we fly. Since the industry is driven by small margins, every customer flown counts. JetBlue’s mission bring humanity back in the air travel is driving us to welcome on board anybody who would like to fly us. And we consistently design all our product and experiences with that in mind!
Integrated experiences are based on integrated technologies
The future of flying is here only if we are able to integrate virtual reality and other technologies in a meaningful way that adds value. In JetBlue we are collaborating with JetBlue Technology Ventures and Strivr to test VR for training of our maintenance crewmembers. The technology is more advanced in helping with decision making and not necessarily recreating the feeling of loading bags under the plane. For those immersive experiences the integration, build and scaling of the experiences is much more complex. Integrated and intuitive experiences are not hard to imagine, they are very complex to create and personalize.
Somebody has to pay for it
The moment we begin scaling and implementing customer journeys that use technologies of the future, we have to build the business case and its ROI. CFOs see customer experience design projects as process effectiveness work that increases output of existing infrastructure. Customer experience is much more than that of course, but knowing your audience is half the battle. Regardless if you agree with finance or no, you need the funding they hold. If you list the funding and maintenance requirements for a VR or a biometric solution very quickly you will see that to extract value from future technologies, you also need other future technologies to be cheaper. We all depend on a faster network (5G, 8G, 10G?) and even cheaper storage (cloud that is free to maintain and does not hit your operating expense every year?). Until that happens we probably will trial more and scale less.
We all share the excitement for the possibilities that new technologies like facial recognition and VR bring to us today. Some of us even venture to realize and share those possibilities with our customers. Customers have the power to add and co-design their experiences, which is really exciting too. In JetBlue we used facial recognition boarding to lead the industry. Our innovation was embraced by our customers and that is why we all won at the end!
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