American Airlines is in the midst of revamping the customer
relationship management tools used by its sales force, including a CRM solution
developed with software provider Salesforce.com. AA vice president of global
sales Derek DeCross said the new tools will speed contracting for travel
procurement professionals, hasten the resolution of problems experienced by
accounts and allow AA to better coordinate with joint business partners.
"We have overhauled and invested like we've never
invested before on the sales technology side," said DeCross.
AA in this regard has some kindred spirits; two competitors,
Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, in recent years also have invested in CRM
systems, a broad category of web-based software that, among other functions,
facilitates and automates client contracting, enables targeted marketing
programs and supports customer service. Airlines contend these systems not only
ease dealmaking and account management, but help to discern the nuances of
individual corporate accounts and tailor services to their needs.
AA's Salesforce platform will be the gateway through which
account managers access client information, including Prism reports that
monitor corporate marketshare performance. AA executives said the carrier is
rolling out corporate CRM software in conjunction with joint business partners,
and also examining how to incorporate software used by ally British Airways to
hone marketing campaigns to relevant clients.
"Putting together a joint business program these days
takes lots of coordination with JB partners," said AA Eastern sales
division vice president Jim Carter. "You have guidelines, policies and
approvals. This is one place where it will all sit. It doesn't matter how
complicated the deal design is, from A to Z you'll be able to watch your way
through this process. Where it's been approved, what's waiting for approval—it
just brings better corporate dealing. It's more robust information and it's
faster to market."
Steve Smith, vice president of Americas passenger sales for
AA partner Japan Airlines, said his carrier for about a year has used
Salesforce and seen "greater efficiency in communication and response
Delta launched its Salesforce system in 2007, and has been "evolving
how we leverage the tool for quite a while," said managing director of
sales operations Kristen Shovlin. The platform enables Delta to plug in
Salesforce apps, as well as tools from third-party developers, she said. Delta
account managers use Salesforce to access "account profile, contracts and
a lot of different account information," including Delta's SkyPartner
reports, which detail client metrics on ancillary spending and customer
For multinational accounts, the CRM tool gives Delta account
managers a "one-stop shop" to access client information, connecting "our
representatives who manage relationships in Asia, in Latin America, in Europe,
specifically on the global side with joint-venture partners," she
explained. "We can go to one source so we don't have different information
Delta during the past two years also has integrated
Salesforce tools with sales support centers, so "the people who support
these relationships have access as well," Shovlin added. "Account
managers can put information in so the support center knows and the support
center can put in information about what's happening with the client directly
to that account managers."
United has its own suite of CRM tools, which "is really
a collection of systems [that] more intelligently tether together information,"
United executive vice president of marketing, technology and strategy Jeff
Foland said in a recent interview with The
This tightens the nuts and bolts of account management and
contracting and supports airlines as they delve into "data-oriented
products" and the ability to deliver "right offer, right time, right
place, right price," Foland said.
CRM gives United "the ability to tailor packages at an
enterprise level, not just a consumer level," Foland said. "It
translates back into the way products have been designed, rolled out and
executed over the years, which has changed quite a bit with the whole notion of
unbundling as well as rebundling, packages and new products. These CRM
capabilities will better enable us to stitch that together for good visibility
at various levels.
"In terms of how those models ultimately translate into
commercial relationships as we go forward," he continued, "there's
still a lot we have to learn and a lot the market has to learn and decide about
originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Travel Procurement.