You’ve probably been on a plane before, maybe lots of times. But what you may not realize is the amount of decision-making and strategic planning that goes into the entire experience—everything from booking your flight to landing safely at your destination. Jennifer Proctor, BA ’87, Managing Director of Customer Experience Planning for American Airlines, spoke recently to Gupta College of Business professor Michael Stodnick’s, Ph.D., Senior Seminar about the challenges the airline faces in creating the best customer experience possible. “As of 2013, American Airlines is the world’s largest airline,” Proctor said, “and now we want to be the best.”
Proctor said that after emerging from bankruptcy in 2013 and beginning the merger process with US Airways, American began focusing five strategic areas—“have-to- do’s” that will help American Airlines regain its top-tier image. “We have to focus on our customer needs and wants, become an industry leader in reliability, engage our team members, create return for our investors, and look to the future,” she said.
Although several departments within American Airlines are eager to test new products and services, Proctor said company must maintain its focus. “We have to be strategic about these potential projects,” she said. “Each department within the company must answer myriad questions to determine the feasibility of any new service. What is the revenue impact? What is the cost impact? What is the project timeline? How does the project affect our competitive situation? Does this project deliver the American Airlines vision?”
2015 was the most profitable year in the history of American Airlines, but Proctor knows that the company must continue to innovate in all areas to maintain those record profits. “We know that happy employees equals happy customers, and happy customers equals happy shareholders,” she said. With that in mind, American is working on improving employee engagement and satisfaction.
So the next time you board an American Airlines flight, remember that everything from your free soda to the power outlet under your seat was considered and reconsidered in order to give you the best experience possible. And then silently thank UD alumna Jennifer Proctor that your phone won’t die mid-flight.