Alaska Air Taps Oracle To Build Customer Loyalty

The airline implements Siebel loyalty-program software designed to shift the focus away from revenue-draining free miles and more toward personalized service.
For example, if a customer's flight is canceled, Alaska is looking at better utilizing its airport check-in kiosks to let a customer select her way to a new flight via the airline's Web-based reservation system, rather than stand in a long line at the ticket counter.

"We ought to be able to power our back-end system with tools we now have to make that [service disruption] less stressful," Jarvis said. Alaska currently provides e-mail alerts to customers' handheld devices if there's a change or disruption in their scheduled flights, but it's looking at how it can better personalize those messages to provide each customer with more choices in service based on profile information.

It's been a long and time-intensive journey to implementing the Siebel Loyalty system, however. The company first began talking to Siebel about the system in 2005, shortly after it implemented Siebel Analytics and shortly before Siebel was acquired by Oracle. It started the implementation in late 2006 and finished in April 2008, but in the past few months it just finished "stabilizing" the system and will "start to fill out customer profiles on an opt-in basis," Jarvis said. "That was a massive implementation of a very critical transaction system for us." He did not disclose the cost of the software, which runs on an Oracle database.

Jarvis thinks customers will have a much more personalized experience as a result of a system that is less focused on miles redemption and more on an improved traveling experience and promotions specific to a customer's personal interests. A lot of air travelers have become frustrated with trying to redeem earned miles -- with every airline making it more difficult to do so as they try to protect their dwindling revenue -- so airlines need to move beyond the award miles approach.

Said Jarvis: "For our most frequent customers, it's not about the miles, it's about the service we deliver."

The article was edited on 1/5 to clarify a report submitted by JD Powers.

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