Published on 13 Aug 2013
"We saw that it was more important for us to get across the visionary aspect of change than the procedural side, so that [agents] would understand the bigger context" - Matt Lee, Executive Manager, Ground Operations, Qantas Airways
Travel & Transportation
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Qantas was realistic about the need to shorten its check-in queues, and it wasn’t afraid to set the bar high – as in eliminating them altogether– in addressing the challenge. Rewriting the book on self-service, the airline designed an experience that combines the sensing of passenger data by well-placed kiosks and card readers within the terminal with an energized and versatile corps of roving service agents. It’s a formula that has proven stunningly successful, putting Qantas at the forefront of self-service innovation.
The crux of their plan was to replace much of its physical check-in infrastructure with an array of sophisticated self-service terminals – kiosks, RFID card readers and bag-ticket printers – that would give passengers the option to perform all aspects of the check-in process in a matter of seconds, literally. What truly set the plan apart, explains Lee, was that it completely reimagined – and in many ways expanded – the role of live Qantas agents in the customer’s check-in experience.
At Qantas, Matt Lee and Gabriella D’Alessandro, heads of Ground Operations and Technology, respectively, were key players in a 12-month transformation effort that all but eliminated check-in lines and sparked a new passion for service among agents.
Lessons learned...A new service mindset means a new kind of training Having traditionally followed a “chalk-and-talk” classroom approach to training, Qantas saw that the nature of the change it was driving required a very different training approach. “We saw that it was more important for us to get across the visionary aspect of change than the procedural side, so that [agents] would understand the bigger context.” – Matt Lee
The benefits of the Qantas Next Generation Check-In System: •Reduced the time required for passengers to check in by more than 90 percent, to under one minute • Improved ability to optimize the deployment of agent resources through analysis of passenger travel patterns • Achieved an all-time high in check-in experience satisfaction • Increased customer loyalty and retention by offering a premium service that fully differentiates Qantas from its competitors
Qantas Next Generation Check In Case Study Video
· Matthew Lee, Executive Manager of Ground Operations, Qantas
· Gabriella D’Alessandro, Head of Technology, Domestic & Operations, Qantas
· Doug Regan, IBM Services Executive, Qantas Account
Matt Lee: We identified that check-in was a key area for transformation
First of all, our customers were increasingly telling us that queuing up at the front of house to check in was a significant pain point for them. They were buying a ticket to travel from point A to point B, not to spend time in the airport itself.
Secondly we have a fairly strong domestic competitor here in Australia, and we knew they were looking to move up into the premium market and attack what is our traditional customer base, so we had to respond to that.
And thirdly, there’s a question of scalability. What we were looking to be able to do was to grow further into the space that we had without having to make significant infrastructure investment
One of the other objectives was also around trying to give back to our customer service people the ability to engage in customer service.
Matt Lee: We chose IBM as the lead vendor on the Next Generation check-in program for a number of reasons.
We wanted to work with a partner who we felt we had confidence in, not just in their ability to help us run the program, to manage what ended up being a large number of different vendors right across the different aspects of the check-in process and the behind the scenes systems, but also somebody who had the technology capability and technology smarts around innovation to help us get to some of the breakthrough solutions that we needed to get to.
Doug Regan: We support QANTAS with our local team, but we’ve also brought to bear our travel and transport and industry knowledge, we’ve bought check-in experts from around the world. We’ve also brought in other experts in particular areas of the airline industry to advise and to give ideas on QANTAS and what other airlines are doing, but also what technology is coming that can help them in their endeavors with the customers.
Gabriella: It’s really important on a program like this to get executive commitment and backup and that’s what we had. We also worked with a very dedicated team of QANTAS people and our service partners, IBM being one of those service partners.
Doug Regan: Seventeen distinct streams of work came together from both a business program management, the IT program management to actually deliver the result in the end. It was a huge undertaking, which thousands of people participated in over the course of the program and over two hundred suppliers.
Our role in this was really just bringing it all together, being an execution partner to make sure that it worked.
[THE PERTH LAUNCH]
Matt Lee: Unlike a lot of large programs of this nature we couldn’t switch off check-in for six weeks whilst we did all the infrastructure work, got it right and running, testing it and then switch it back on. We had to deliver the Next Generation technology into a real live operational environment
The Perth launch was really nerve-racking actually because it was the first port where we were switching the technology on
Doug Regan: There were a lot of people saying you will never make it, this isn’t going to work, it is too early
Gabriella: Right up until probably 3.00am, the morning before we went live, we still had the screwdrivers sets out,
We then launched with our first flight, turned all the equipment on and it went very, very smoothly.
Doug Regan: The passenger experience was fabulous and once we did that the bar was set high
Gabriella: The project was delivered on time within budget and actually early. The project was originally eighteen months. We delivered the entire project end to end in twelve months, which is a significant achievement for all those involved.
Matt Lee: In my 25-odd years in the industry, I can’t think of another occasion where we’ve had a program of this magnitude embedded in an operational environment that hasn’t gone wrong in some sort of sensational fashion. This has just run like clockwork right from the beginning.
Gabriella: The biggest probably advantage for our premium customers was the queue card reader where with just a simple card fitted with an RFID chip, they can walk up to the queue card reader, hold it there for 5 seconds and bingo they were checked in.
Matt Lee: The fact that the customer service agents were no longer sitting behind a desk and were out amongst the customers on a permanent basis was quite a significant change
They were able to do what they all love the most, which is engage with our customers, offering the sort of service that we’re famous for. We’re seeing our customers tell us increasingly that they feel valued, and they feel like they’re being treated as an individual.
Doug Regan: As a result of next generation check in, QANTAS customers are now advocating for QANTAS.
Matt Lee: We’ve had a lot of interest from other airlines for obvious reasons. They’re seeing the benefits that we’re achieving through delivering fantastic customer experiences.
Gabriella: We were also presented with the best innovative product in the Future Travel Experience Summit that was held in Vancouver in Canada.
We’ve also won two awards with the Australian Institute of Program Management.
Matt Lee: Now that we’ve got a fantastic base to work from, the next step is to look at delivering great service through our people.
The aspiration of no queues seemed fairly lofty at the beginning and was put out there as one of these goals that we you know we’d strive for, and hope to achieve. We certainly achieved that and more.
It’s a great place to be, and long may it last.
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
AIS: Accelerated Solution Delivery, AMS: Application Out-Tasking - Custom, GBS Business and Customer Strategy, GBS S&T: Business and Customer Strategy - Business Strategy, GTS Strategic Outsourcing: AoD App. Services - Development, GTS Technical Support Services: Hardware Maintenance