You’ve developed a super swanky app, now use it

Essential eCommerce’s Caroline Baldwin says businesses need to use their applications for real-time problems, not just to sit there and look pretty.

You only have to look at the travel and hospitality sector to see some great examples of mobile apps: Booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb, British Airways, EasyJet, Trainline, SkyScanner, Uber, Hailo, Citymapper, heck, even Google Maps. They all take the strain out of what can be a complicated and stressful experience.

And while Citymapper makes me chuckle as it calculates how many calories I will burn on my walk to a meeting, Uber amazes me with its seamless payments, and I gaze longingly at the background of BA’s app which presents you with beautiful imagery of your next destination, sometimes these clever applications dumbfound me when it comes to the simple things in life.

On a recent trip back from New York City after NRF, I experienced a check-in desk queue of mammoth proportions at JFK airport. To be fair, it was the day after the blizzard which bought the city that never sleeps to a complete halt, so the terminal was full of frenzied people trying to get on the next flight home.

I arrived 2.5 hours ahead of my 21.35 scheduled take-off time, all checked-in on the British Airways app and ready to drop my bag off. But the queue for the check-in desk was snaking all over the terminal, so-much-so I found it difficult to find the end. Worried that the queue was most likely longer than two-hours long, I tried to find a member of staff to talk to. Angrily brushed off by the handful of stressed and overworked staff at the check-in desk (there was absolutely no one else around), I returned to my spot in the queue and opened the app for information. Nothing. Keeping in mind that when you check in BA asks you for your email and mobile number, there was no information provided.

I then looked up at the multiple digital screens around me, either advertising some brand or another or alerting customers that they were queueing for the BA check-in desk. But no useful information at all.

All I – and the agitated travellers around me – wanted to know was whether we would make our flight, as we shuffled along the queue at a snail’s pace. I only took comfort in the fact that most people around me were for the same flight, so I thought the plane can’t take off without ALL of us.

Eventually a member of staff walked up and down the queue calling out flight numbers of immediate take-offs, but surely this could have been more efficient with a digital message asking people to skip to the front of the queue? They could then concentrate on finding the non-techy stragglers instead of searching for 400+ passengers.

Travelling is stressful at the best of times  and in an age where you can check-in online with an app – the background of which, remember, cleverly changes to the an idyllic scene of your destination – why are BA staff marching the aisles to find people for a flight when a push notification would easily calm the crowds?

Yes, it’s great to have a slick and snazzy app – but what is the point if they are not used to easily solve stressful situations?

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