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Privacy & Preferences at 30,000 Feet

Type: Blog

At the end of 2014, United Airlines announced that they were investing in technology for in-flight use by flight attendants – each would receive an iPhone 6 Plus. The smartphones would make retail transactions quick, and keep essential information easily accessible (like safety policies), but it would also replicate each flight’s manifest to put flyer information at attendants’ fingertips.

Now that the technology is finally being unrolled, passengers are experiencing more personalized service. For frequent travelers, it’s just another customized interaction that represents a wealth of data the airline has on them – name, birthday, itinerary, loyalty status – information that’s often used to reward the traveler with special treatment based on recognition. For many of those loyal, repeat customers, the personalized interactions are not only welcome, but expected.

Meanwhile, those who travel less frequently are unaccustomed to being identified or given that level of personal attention. In fact, the confusion over being identified in-flight is putting some flyers off.

The misstep I see is that the consumer journey has been altered on a meaningful level and wary customers aren’t sure how their information ended up in a flight attendant’s hand. Companies need to be cautious of managing expectations for their customers. While every flyer has to share their information to book a ticket, the difference in expectations between skeptical and eager consumers can result in awkward moments during an overly personal beverage service.

Preference management, the active collection, maintenance and distribution of unique consumer characteristics, such as product interest, channel preference and frequency of communication, would have been the first step for a program that aimed to use traveler data for real-time recognition. While a flyer’s data could be used for requested alerts about cancelled flights or seat upgrades, it’s a significant leap to translate the same information for use in an omnichannel situation without first informing a consumer about the ways in which their information and preferences might be used during their service.

These days everyone tries to delight their customers, but creating a personalized journey with all the big data you can get your hands on can backfire. By using preference management solutions, you allow customers to state their preferences in myriad ways. By respecting your customers’ comfort levels, you build trust on their terms and enhance engagement with consumers who become your best return on investment.

About the Author: 

Eric V. Holtzclaw is  Chief Strategist  of PossibleNOW. He’s a researcher, writer, serial entrepreneur and challenger-of-conventional wisdom. His book with Wiley Publishing on consumer behavior – Laddering: Unlocking the Potential of Consumer Behavior – hit bookstores last summer. Eric helps strategically guide companies with the implementation of enterprise-wide preference management solutions.

Follow me on Twitter: @eholtzclaw | Connect on LinkedIn: Eric Holtzclaw

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