Just before upgrading its sweeping reservations system, the airline decided to keep customers in the dark.

Bob Evans, Contributor

April 15, 2010

3 Min Read

On the mission-critical nature of the application: The system sells seats and collects passenger payments but it also controls much of the passenger experience: shopping on the airline's Web site; interacting with reservation agents; using airport kiosks; selecting seats; checking bags; boarding at the gate; rebooking and getting refunds for cancellations.

"It has a very big circle of influence and has to integrate with other systems in the airline," says Steve Clampett, an executive at Sabre Airline Solutions division. "It's as visible a technology upgrade as in almost any industry."

On the damage-control WestJet is still practicing: WestJet's customer loyalty scores tumbled as a result of long waits and booking difficulties. The airline sent apology letters, offered flight credits to some customers and a month later bolstered its call center with temporary staffers in India, and by December, installed "virtual hold" so callers would be promised a response within a certain time. "We were in pretty good shape in mid-January from a service perspective," Mr. Cummings says. "But this is a three- to six-month recovery process."

Like I said, hindsight is always 20/20, and my point here is not to beat up on the folks at WestJet—except for the small number of executives who panicked at the thought of potentially "telegraphing" a small opportunity to competitors at the expense of customers.

Rather, it's to underscore the idea that the CIO job continues to evolve rapidly toward deeper, wider, and more-vital engagement with customers because technology has become so pervasive in how customers in any industry experience products and services, assess capabilities, evaluate brands and value propositions, and determine which company gets the revenue and which one gets the fuhgeddaboudit.

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About the Author(s)

Bob Evans


Bob Evans is senior VP, communications, for Oracle Corp. He is a former InformationWeek editor.

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