Can big data help improve customer experience? Not if you are a airline or car rental customer

I see a lot of emails pass through my inbox everyday about how big data can help companies improve their customer experience. The bit that is missing is that if your existing customer management operations are poor then adding more data to this model is not going to help. Let's take two examples: airlines and car hire. I have good status with two companies in these industries but recent experience has taught me that calling their help desks (as instructed by the error messages on their websites) is a frustrating and largely pointless exercise. Yesterday I tried for over two hours to book a flight on an airlines website using my air miles. To use your air miles on this particular site you have to navigate through a number of screens which allow you to choose your flight, enter your traveller details, enter your credit card details and then finally book your ticket. Every time I tried to book a ticket I got an error message which told me to contact the help desk. The first person I spoke to on the help desk was courteous and helpful. He claimed the problem was that the flight I had selected was no longer available and sure enough when I restarted the process the flight was no longer available. I then picked another flight ad went through the same long winded process to book a different set of flights and got the same error message. Restarting again, my flight which had disappeared was now back on the list again. The process of selecting flights and getting error messages went on for another hour and then I gave up and called the help desk again. This time the person on the other end of the phone told me they were maintaining the website and to try again. That was followed by the sound of a hangup and I was left listening to a dialling tone. I tried to book a ticket again and got the same error message. I called the help desk again and got another bored and rude person who told me the site was being maintained and to try again. I then explained that I had been trying to book a flight for over two hours and that I kept getting an error message. During the conversation where the person in the help centre was doing there utmost to be unhelpful they casually dropped into the conversation the following sentence: "if you are booking a non-XXXX flight then the system does not know if the partner airline has any space left. Just keep trying. Click…...". Then  I got another hang-up.
So what this proves is a number of things: 1) when you call this particular airline's help desk they do not ask you for any contact details so they have no idea who is calling, therefore, they cannot track anything related to that conversation - was it good, did the help desk solve the problem, was the customer happy, did the help desk agent hang up!. 2) Airlines and their partners (or at least this group) clearly do not share data about the space available on their planes. If you want to use your air miles every airline is going to frustrate the hell out of you and deter you from making a booking but that is no real surprise.
If airline executives do not settle for poor quality data in their dashboard reports why do these executives think their customers should settle for substandard data on their websites? Is real-time updating so hard to do? Oracle has the technology to help you and we are working with a number of companies on real-time big data as well so if you are an airline and you don't want to get left behind, call Oracle we can definitely help you make your business better and improve your customers get a much better, richer experience.
Problem #2. Car hire. Harvesting clickstream data and using that information to make recommendations is not new but using it to rip-off your most valued customers is a very strange business tactic. After finally booking my flight on my now ex-frequent flyer airline website I tried to book a hire car to get to Heathrow. I logged on to my preferred website with my account details. The system returned a list of cars starting at £130 per day for an Audi A4. That seemed a little high and I really did not need an Audi A4. Logging out of my account and searching again returned a completely different list of vehicles starting at £71. Being a loyal and valued customer with this particular car rental company means you get ripped off - paying %100 more than you need to. And companies wonder why consumers have zero loyalty. Fortunately, big data saved the day and I used a comparison website to get a better quote. I will continue to use my existing car rental company but I will not use my account to book the car.
The impact on this particular car rental company is that all the clickstream data it collects is largely useless because it cannot be tied to a particular user because which user is going to be dumb enough to sign in to the site to do a search. The real value of the click-data relating to a session is lost.


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