I was sitting on a United Airlines flight from PDX to SFO last weekend. The usual "Jeff Smisek" video came on welcoming the passengers, providing us with information about how the transition is going and thanking us for choosing United. For the first time in more than a year, I lifted my head from my printed material (no electronics during taxi, takeoff, and landing) to watch the video and listen. He was talking about United's mobile services AND the feature set. Whoa.
Jeff Smisek has been welcoming passengers on to United flights since just after the acquisition – I think he talked for 6 to 8 months about getting the planes painted with their new logo. Then there was the full merger of the crews and upgrades to the plane interior, etc. I had long ago stopped paying attention . . . like most passengers flying 100x/year, I just want to get where I'm going on time safely, and I bring my own food and entertainment on board.
I just couldn't believe that the CEO of a Fortune 100 company was discussing their mobile services. I have photos from United's jetways that are less than two years old offering push notifications to pagers. Yeah, email and pagers.
Mr. Smisek – I commend you. The vast majority of Fortune 500 companies have senior level buy-in for their mobile strategy. Seldom, however, does a CEO become such an advocate. I was thrilled to see the video and the associated support. Like all frequent travelers, I rely heavily on my mobile phone for updates and information. Your mobile team is outstanding and has a phenomenal vision for how mobile should serve your passengers and staff. I was happy to see the recognition.
I hope that more CEOs will step up and realize the importance of mobile in serving their customer base. Most mobile services today offer only the basics – a subset of the PC experience. Teams need more funding and support to get access to and deliver real-time information – especially in the travel industry. In all industries, mobile services must leverage context to simplify experiences and meet consumer needs. The "consumer expectation bar" is rapidly rising. CEOs – you need to fund these initiatives. The money you spent on mobile applications and on mobile-optimizing your website is the tip of the iceberg. That spend got most of you to parity in your industry within a few months. If you don't spend to create the infrastructure – data architecture, web services layers, systems of engagement – that you need to support future mobile services, you won't be catching up in a few months' time. It'll take years.