Competition in the airline industry has prompted American Airlines to accelerate and focus on superb customer experiences.

Loyalty360 caught up with Fern Fernandez, Vice President of Global Marketing at American Airlines, and talked about what the airline is doing around customer loyalty, customer engagement, and customer experience.

Can you talk about AA’s efforts around CX, customer loyalty, and customer engagement and how they have changed and/or progressed in the past year or two?

Fernandez: The airline industry is extremely competitive and we know this. Beyond seats, food, and lounges, service is really how we are able to consistently differentiate our product. Our customer base is diverse and expects products and services tailored to multiple needs from the price-conscious, to our most frequent traveler who demands a robust global network. A good example of this is our three class service between JFK-LAX/SFO tailored around providing a high level of service in the premium cabins, while still offering a set of competitive fares in the main cabin. Our goal is to deliver excellent service regardless of the cabin, and provide the products our best customers demand such as a network of lounges, priority boarding, and check-in.

How important is listening to your customers, and how do you leverage those insights for any of your CX/customer loyalty/customer engagement initiatives?

Fernandez: We have a set of tools that provides us the ability to continuously listen to our customers and employees. That feedback, along with competitive benchmarks, is fundamentally at the heart of all our decisions. It’s because of those insights that we’ve seen the importance in creating very different customer journeys and segments at the airport and in flight.

What trends do you see or foresee regarding digital customer engagement themes?

Fernandez: How customers engage with us as a brand is evolving rapidly. Today, customers expect us to provide them the tools to engage with us via social channels and the ability to easily transact via mobile devices.

What do you think is the most effective customer engagement tool and why?

Fernandez: Customer engagement is about being relevant in multiple channels or segments. Having a broad customer base affects how each customer would like to communicate with the brand. Because of this, we have ramped up our 24-hour social customer service operation for our customers that prefer to communicate via social media, while still providing multiple other venues for customers to reach us or hear from us.

What metrics does AA use to measure customer loyalty and how have those evolved in recent years?

Fernandez: American looks at many different metrics to track customer engagement and loyalty, including repeat business, engagement in the AAdvantage program, from status earning and currency earning and redemption perspectives, degree of digital engagement (i.e. app downloads and profile-based notification subscriptions) and interaction with American communications (i.e. email opt-ins, opens and site log-ins) to name a few. These metrics continue to evolve in line with the industry and technological innovations.

What are you most proud of at AA?

Fernandez: I am most proud of how we have executed the most successful integration between two brands without skipping a beat, and that we continue to focus on investing in the customer experience throughout.

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