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JetBlue fuels improved customer service via iPad mini deployment

JetBlue Airways announced that it will provide each inflight crewmember with an iPad mini for use as a point of sale and document management device, as the acceleration of WiFi installations on aircraft combined with the large number of passengers carrying one or more digital devices is creating momentum for inflight innovations focusing on digital developments.

Crewmembers who will be working Mint flights, JetBlue's new premium service offering flights between New York, Los Angeles and soon San Francisco, will be among the first to use this new technology onboard, and by April 2015, every inflight crewmember will have a device for onboard use. Tablets and smartphones give airlines an ability to reinvestigate every aspect of their business and close the customer-service loop as they will be able to provide passengers with real-time information to improve customer service.

"We've recently made a number of exciting and innovative onboard enhancements to enrich the customer experience, such as expanding inflight entertainment, introducing Fly-Fi and being the first United States carrier to allow customers to use portable electronic devices gate-to-gate," said Joanna Geraghty, executive vice president of customer experience at JetBlue Airways.

"It's clear the connected cabin is the next big thing, and with the introduction of iPad minis, our inflight crewmembers will be able to know more about our customers onboard and will have a better sense of real time opportunities and challenges on the ground as we look for ways to enhance our customers' experience with that information.?

?With this new tool, the possibilities are endless,? she said.

Little device, big implications
JetBlue will give every inflight crewmember an iPad mini to handle payments, determine if the right people are onboard, and even translate foreign languages. 

In addition to deploying tablets, the airline is also debuting the In-Flight Service Assistant (IfSA), a purpose-built application and crew portal through which crewmembers can access key business applications to help facilitate the delivery of exceptional customer service and enhance operational efficiency while onboard.

JetBlue also plans on releasing other core business applications that will provide crewmembers with easy access to any forms, manuals and other resources that will streamline its operation and enhance the airline's award winning service.

Currently, JetBlue's inflight crewmembers can use the IfSA app on their iPads to access an electronic manifest that not only shows if there are customers with special needs onboard, but also identifies TrueBlue and Mosaic customers. The iPads also assist crewmembers in completing onboard purchases as a point of sale device and contains translation technology that can translate questions, comments or concerns from customers in any language.

By December 2015, inflight crewmembers be able to access their own schedules, hotel and transportation information and acknowledge changes, but the airline will also potentially provide them with limited access to customers' JetBlue flight and onboard purchase history in an effort to personalize the onboard experience for better customer relationship management.

"We are very excited to provide our inflight crewmembers with the enhanced tools that they will need to continue delivering the award-winning JetBlue Experience," said Rachel McCarthy, vice president of inflight experience with JetBlue Airways. "By giving our crewmembers tablets to use onboard, we can increase our product offerings and marketing capabilities.?

Second screen success
In the past year, airlines such as Emirates and British Airways have equipped their staff with tablets. This allows cabin crew to see previous trips that a passenger has taken with the carrier and, based on this, know their food, wine and seating preferences, or any issues a customer had during their previous travels.

One of the largest initiatives in this area comes from British Airways, which has provided cabin crew across its long and short-haul network with an iPad featuring its ?Enhanced Services Platform?. Consisting of several apps that allow flight attendants to store and receive relevant passenger details in real-time, such as itineraries, meal preferences and other data items, the airline aims to offer its passengers a more tailored in-flight service.

In late 2012, BA also announced the rollout of its 'Know Me' customer recognition program. According to BA, it has spent almost a decade trying to corral all of its passenger data from 200 sources into one database, in order to generate a single customer view. The program is able to send messages with information about specific customers to the iPads of customer service agents and senior cabin crew, or update check-in staff via the airline?s computer system.

BA explained that a potential scenario of the service could be a flight on which the crew is aware that a passenger is flying Business Class for the first time. Staff would welcome the customer, show her how to use her seat and then note how she reacted. As part of the program a delivery lab has also been set up to analyze the way the airline communicates with customers, so that only the most relevant and interesting messages are sent to them.

Furthermore, Virgin America partnered with Chatter social messaging tool to allow passengers to interact with support staff on the ground via the entertainment screens on the back of seats during the flight to deal with real-time problems that need real-time answers.

"Our inflight crewmembers already deliver award-winning customer service. This tablet solution will allow them to deliver an even better JetBlue experience, ultimately enhancing convenience and efficiency for customers," said Blair Koch, vice president of commercial and shared development services, JetBlue Airways.

 Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York