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Mystery Shopping for Airlines to Improve Customer Loyalty

Mystery shopping can be a beneficial way for airlines to gain objective feedback. Typically, airlines only hear from angry customers when a problem arises. When it comes to air travel, emotions run high. Whether people are flying for business or pleasure, many travelers find air travel to be a stressful experience. Airlines have to go above and beyond to please travelers in order to encourage brand loyalty.

Mystery shopping helps airlines understand their customers' perspective.Many people are familiar with the bad publicity that can occur when an angry traveler takes to social media to complain about their poor experience with an airline. In fact, a simple search on any social network of any major airline carrier’s name will produce a wide variety of consumer complaints being broadcast via the internet. These can be everything from written complaints to traveler’s actual pictures and videos of the problem. While these reviews shouldn’t be discredited, this may not be an accurate picture of what most passengers experience.

While airlines may be very well aware of their most frequent customer complaints — small seats, baggage fees — getting into the mind of the consumer is not as easy. One of the best ways for airlines to gain insight into their customers’ experience is through mystery shopping audits.

Airline mystery shopping is designed to give airline carriers insight into their customers’ experience through an unbiased, objective pair of eyes. Not only is mystery shopping a great way for airline carriers to find out exactly what their passengers experience, and what sort of customer service is being offered, but it allows them to identify strengths and weaknesses, which can help them avoid a future public relations problem.

Furthermore, mystery shopping is a great way to reward exceptional employees, which in itself provides an incentive for other airline employees to treat every customer as a potential mystery shopper. When conducting an airline shop, mystery shopping professionals will evaluate the level of customer service offered by all airline employees they interact with during their flight, including those at the airport as well as in-flight.

Additionally, they will evaluate the look and appearance of the aircraft’s interior, its cleanliness, the restroom facilities, and accessibility for disabled passengers. They can even evaluate the airline’s meal options and service.

The wealth of data received from an airline mystery shopping audit can help airlines determine areas of weakness and strength in their operations; identify how their agents react, and should react, in specific situations such as flight changes or unruly flyers; develop, refine or evaluate a training program; create an incentive program for employees; and, even develop new criteria for management performance and bonuses.

Mystery shopping is a better, more accurate indicator of how airlines are performing, as compared to focus groups, customer surveys, and social media complaints. For an airline looking for key performance indicators, consider working with a mystery shopping agency that can provide national or even international coverage.

Photo credit: Matt Hurst (Flickr, Creative Commons