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CONTRIBUTOR / Praveen Sharma

UNITED / Data Analytics

Data can help create a personal touch in simple and unexpected ways, even onboard a flight. In his video, Sharma shares how simple data-driven acts--such as a flight attendant wishing passengers a happy birthday or the airline saving a customer from the grief of a fraud alert by passing on flight information to a credit card company--can foster positive relationships of trust. Sharma shares how building trust through data management requires transparency from acquisition to application.


As, we the airlines, are in a consumer business, we are trying to sort of surprise and delight our customers. We are trying to create this personal engagement. And, when we do that, when we try to do that we have to use certain personal information sometimes with analytics in the data which we have from all the customers.

It is something which we need to be very careful about how we use the data, and how we not sort of break that trust. So, for example when we capture the data on what interactions a customer is having with the airline, or where they are sort of shopping and what they are buying and all, there is a utility which we have which we can use to inform their future interaction.

So, when a person in our case traveling internationally, and sometimes in the country where they have previously not traveled, the credit card companies may have rules around calling certain transactions fraudulent and decline that transaction.

However, if I know that the particular customer went on a flight to Peru, for example, and then they are in Peru and using their credit card, I can use that, pass that information to the credit card company and say "no, it is not fraudulent transaction; it is this particular customer who has just landed on our flight is using the credit card."

In that way we can earn the trust because nowadays there are customers who are having interaction in various other channels, they believe that if the company has the information, why didn't they share it with someone else who could have made my life easier. And, we have to be very careful how we use that, because a customer may not appreciate that they might have told us all we might have inferred this.

So, that may appear very creepy. So, we have certain examples where we provide our flight attendant certain data about our customers, by which they can use that to create a positive interaction with the customer.

And, one of those datasets could be just the birthdate, not the year, just the day, and we leave it to the flight attendants to sort of gauge the customer before they sort of wish them Happy birthday. So, there are certain customers who may feel pretty good about it, certain not.

You have to also be aware of the delivery person who is delivering the data. A very good example that came about is we had a situation where flight attendants were sort of wishing people birthdays on their on their flight as such, and we got a note from the husband of the flight attendant who sort of said "that you know what, the whole day she was wishing customers their birthdays, but nobody wished her back.

It was her birthday. So, imagine sort of, you know, the envy. For our employees, we should have the data, we had the data, but we just sort of did not use it. Imagine how cool it would have been if the pilot, or even the screen that she had brought, lit up.

You could have earned her trust also, and then cleared this very positive engagement, which could be useful. So, I think it is having the full context, and making sure that we can use the data in the right moment is pretty critical.