Examining Message Boards: Why One Company Left United Airlines

Posted on September 22, 2008. Filed under: Customer Insight Portal | Tags: , , , , , |

Frequent fliers while small in number compared to the rest of fliers make up the majority of commercial airlines revenue, so when frequent fliers loudly voice complaints airlines need to pay attention. As airlines are making significant changes to its frequent flier programs, it’s now more important than ever for airlines to sharpen their listening skills. FlyerTalk.com, a Web site and message board for frequent fliers, is a verifiable gold mine of insight into customer opinions.

In 2005, the Continental CEO held an event specifically for FlyerTalk members to discuss Continental and to answer questions by its frequent fliers. It garnered an article in The New York Times for Continental, as well as praise for its listening skills. But if you’re an airline with thousands of threads in a forum, how do you effectively understand the tide of public opinion?

An example of a great thread that airlines should hone in on is a recent one posted in United Airline’s section entitled, “Why My Company is Leaving United.” For United, using text analytics software to examine this thread allows them to hone in on invaluable actionable customer feedback. By using The Customer Insight Portal, we can identify the prevalent themes related to dissatisfaction with United.

Conceptual Map Detailing Feedback on United Airlines

Conceptual Map Detailing Feedback on United Airlines

Frequent Themes Associted With Feedback on United Airlines

Frequent Themes Associted With Feedback on United Airlines

The most striking part of the conceptual map is how frequently Southwest shows up as a concept. In addition, the themes of Southwest and better service overlap, which should be a point of concern to United. Especially considering that United overlaps with the concept and themes of bad experience.

Shows Southwest is Perceived as Having Better Customer Service Than United Airlines

Pathway Analysis: Shows Southwest is Perceived as Having Better Customer Service Than United Airlines

Drilling down into this using Pathway analysis, we can see there is a direct relationship to seeing that Southwest is seen as having better service than United. Using the query to dig into the text, we see further evidence of Southwest having better service including this facetious quote:

“I flew 100 segments on Southwest last year and had zero cancellations 
and great service. I had 100 UA trips, none were on time, 50 were 
cancelled, and I saw 10 employee fistfights.”

Showing United Customers Interest in the Perk of Upgrades

Pathway Analysis: Showing United Customers Interest in the Perk of Upgrades

United Airlines does retain frequent fliers with some of its perks, most importantly its ability to offer upgrades, which is a luxury that Southwest can’t offer to frequent fliers.  The provides actionable customer insight for United, knowing the importance frequent fliers place on upgrades on how they can keep this perk as they cut flights by necessity.

Ultimately, The Customer Insight Portal provides a way for airlines to drill down not only on prevalent trends on why fliers are jumping ship but why some are staying put.

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