As with every other major crisis facing the world, whether a global war or a pandemic, humanity prevails through unity, empathy, responsibility, and leadership. Tactical and momentary actions alone will not be enough, because we have to be prepared for a sustained period of strife. Governments and private sector organizations have a shared responsibility to collaborate, setting aside differences, and look beyond their individual stakes. Here is a mix of strategic recommendations specifically for airline executives and customer experience pros:

  1. Focus on reverse loyalty. It means an airline’s loyalty to . . . passengers, staff, partners. Especially during a crisis such as this, the question of loyalty — but in the opposite direction — will come to the fore. This is the best time to earn loyalty, and it is the worst time to lose it. Only a short-minded strategy would concentrate all the effort on survival and neglect its subsequent recovery and growth.
  2. Use this time to create differentiation. After the crisis ends — and it will end — the market landscape will be different, and some of its current participants may not be there. How will your organization enter that post-COVID-19 world? As someone that carries a certain pride for what your organization did for its customers, employees, and partners during the crisis, or as someone who managed to stay afloat by getting a loan?
  3. Learn from this pandemic and develop new working habits for the long term. This pandemic is teaching us all a lesson about how to be safer, more disciplined, more socially responsible, more adept, more collaborative, and more respectful to others and to complain less. This is a brilliant mix of traits that if concocted into a special pill would make a great vaccine against terrible corporate cultures that stifle the workplace. Absorb these habits!
  4. Embrace new processes and technologies. The term “digital transformation” just got a big boost. Organizations are learning what it will be like if they had the ability to deploy processes and technologies that allow cross-border, real-time, remote data access and team collaboration, nonstop, 24x7x365, with almost no down time and end-to-end capability to identify and solve virtually every problem on the fly. This doesn’t sound so futuristic at all now. Post-COVID-19, this is another thing that will help organizations to excel at what they do.
  5. (For airlines:) Anticipate an eventual and massive ramp-up of demand and be ready to serve it. One major feeling of relief may be that people (i.e., customers) actually understand and empathize with their service providers. If you are in the airline industry, know that people are going to get extremely travel-sick as a result of the prolonged period of isolation. Once the world has dealt with the pandemic, hordes of passengers will flock to airlines and happily fly again. Airlines need to have immediate ramp-up plans in place, by country, by route, and by sales/service channel. Imagine going from zero to 4 billion passengers (as was the number of air travelers globally prior to COVID-19) in a matter of a year. Yes, more planning will be required for that.

For the full article, please refer to my ForresterNow story, COVID-19 Has Ground Airlines And Hit Their Pockets, But They Can Soar Again If They Learn The Right Lessons (client access only).