Malaysia Airlines’ hospitality embraces digital

  • Will safeguard customers’ personal data on their Facebook MHchat app
  • No desire to be machine-driven org, combine digital with warmth of Malaysian hospitality

Malaysia Airlines’ hospitality embraces digital

TO take its Malaysian Hospitality promise up a notch, Malaysia Airlines is striving to marry the values of its past with the digital landscape. The airline, in a bid to stay current with consumer expectations and be at par with competitors, has revealed three new digital initiatives – MHguardian, MHfeedback and MHchat, its AI-powered Facebook messenger BOT.

The initiatives are a harbinger of what to expect from Malaysia Airlines which just 18 months back, had a digital team of three who were only responsible for ensuring the website was updated. Fast forward today, the team has grown more than 40 people largely comprising of programmers and designers.

Its chief commercial officer Arved von zur Muehlen explains that, “The entire team has completely changed. We now focus on delivering solutions rather than just basic website updates.”

The solutions it is looking at include leveraging on Internet of Things (IoT) while it keeps an eye on developments in blockchain and cryptocurrency for possible future adoption.

It is looking at IoT solutions in the form of smart luggage tags since missing luggage is a prevalent problem for customers. It hopes to deliver a solution in the future although no date has been announced.

As for blockchain technology, the airline is closely monitoring the cryptocurrency landscape although there are no plans to venture into it. In addition to its volatility and the absence of regulation, Malaysia Airlines does not see it as something that will drive customer experience which remains its main priority.

The slew of digital initiatives has naturally brought about a fear of job loss in a company that is still recovering psychologically from the wrenching job cuts over the past five years.

Acknowledging the concerns of job displacement in ticketing offices and call centres from going digital, Muehlen states that staff interaction is key to their core values as a company. “We don’t want to be a machine-driven organisation that is very efficient but cold. That is not our DNA. We need to combine going digital with the warmth of Malaysian hospitality.”


Mobile first approach

Recognising the smartphone as the preferred platform for over 50% of its customers, Malaysia Airlines has adopted a mobile first approach to all its digital solutions which are then scaled up to larger devices like the tablet and desktop.

MHguardian is the winning idea from MABHackathon 2017, a series of hacking labs launched by the airline to develop prototypes last year. The app which is currently still in the testing phase will enable parents or guardians to track unaccompanied minors throughout their travel with Malaysia Airlines. The company aims to launch this app in Q3 of 2018.

The app will provide parents with stage-by-stage updates of their child navigating through from check-in counter right until landing at their destination. With the assistance of staff, parents can receive reassurance in the form of images of their child through the app.

The head of digital, Peter Pohlschmidt shares, “As an additional safety feature, the parent can preload a picture of the person responsible for picking the child up. This is where we use machine learning and facial recognition matching to ensure the child’s safety.”

Another digital initiative, MHchat, uses machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing to replicate the live contact agent experience. Through this app, the customer will be able to make bookings, payment and retrieve their flight itinerary more interactively online.

“Through MHchat, we can process payment for bookings directly on Facebook messenger. It eliminates the need to redirect to a separate webpage. It is as though you are interacting with the contact centre,” says Pohlschmidt who targets the app’s availability within Q2 of 2018.

While this raises concern of data security of highly sensitive information, the airlines strongly assures they have stringent data security controls in place. In light of the recent Facebook data debacle, the airline clarifies that Facebook messenger is only used as a tool in this case but the airlines takes rigorous measures to safeguard customers’ personal data. Malaysia Airlines says it will be the first Asian airline to allow for booking and payment of flights via Facebook Messenger.

One of the apps already available is MHfeedback which allows customers to provide feedback immediately. The app enables passengers to upload photos of unsatisfactory or exceptional services.

By using machine learning to make images analysable, the feedback can then be escalated to respective functions within the airline. “For example, if a passenger uploads a photo of a food tray, the app will send the feedback to F&B services for action to be taken,” says Pohlschmidt.

With this initiative, the company foresees greater efficiency in escalation and action. Muehlen shares, “The interaction with our customers becomes so much faster and we get valuable feedback at the same time allowing us to act on problems more quickly.”

In short, the various customer focused digital initiatives will allow Malaysia Airlines to deepen its Malaysian Hospitality brand promise to customers.

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