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As a legacy airline founded in 1934, American's approach to the customer experience has certainly evolved with time, but rests upon longstanding "basics" that we always aim to provide. Safety, dependability, cabin cleanliness, efficient baggage handling and employee professionalism underscore all of our efforts to create a positive travel experience for our customers.
Recognizing the importance of service consistency, we developed the Customer Blueprint in 2008 to combine our core customer service priorities with a set of guidelines for making the American Airlines travel experience more personalized and engaging for our primary customer groups. As our company evolves, the Blueprint provides guidance and a foundation from which to launch new and exciting customer experience initiatives in the future.
To maintain customers' loyalty and confidence, we feel it is essential that the Customer Blueprint be implemented consistently throughout our company. To accomplish this goal, we rely on the help of nearly 250 Customer Experience (CE) teams, integrated throughout our organization. CE teams are composed of employee volunteers with expertise in a variety of work functions who all share a passion for excellence in customer service. With representation in more than 15 Working Groups and Steering Committees throughout American and American Eagle, the CE teams influence high-level management initiatives affecting customer engagement, new products and services, and employee training.
We reward our employees with cash payments for their contributions to customer experience performance goals. For every month these goals are met, employees are eligible for Customer Experience Rewards of up to $100. In 2011, we paid $8.6 million in rewards to 67,000 employees for their exceptional customer service.
Since 2007, the Applause program has allowed our premium customers to formally recognize American Airlines and American Eagle employees who provide exceptional customer service. In 2011, more than 162,000 Applause certificates were awarded to employees serving a range of functions, including Flight Attendants, Airport Agents, Premium Service and Reservation Agents. Employees receiving certificates are eligible for monthly drawings for AAdvantage miles gift cards.
At American, providing a positive customer experience is more than an aspiration. We have developed more than 35 metrics – encompassing areas such as onboard service, price and value, cabin condition, dependability and baggage handling – to evaluate the effectiveness of our Customer Blueprint. Monitoring this information allows us stay in tune with industry best practices and create gap analyses to assess our own performance from a broader perspective. This analysis has helped direct a number of goals and near-term initiatives at American. Based upon our customer research in 2011, we have determined:
We also continue to invest in improving flight dependability and baggage handling as part of our longstanding customer enhancement efforts.
Our customers count on us to get them to their destination on time, every time. To continue improving our on-time departure and arrival performance, numerous initiatives are now underway. We are addressing maintenance issues that have contributed to delays by investing in aircraft modifications that improve operational dependability.
We are also refining our data tracking methods to have an increased focus on whether our customers arrive at their final destination as scheduled, rather than looking solely at whether aircraft arrive on time. This perspective has led us to reconfigure block times and add gates at our hubs — improving arrival performance, and helping passengers and their bags get to connecting flights. Initial results from these efforts have been very promising.
Record snowfall and sub-zero temperatures in January and February of 2011 caused major air travel disruptions across much of the United States — even prompting temporary shut-downs at DFW and Chicago O'Hare, our two largest hubs. But despite the wintry conditions, American's ground crews worked tirelessly to get travelers on track to their destinations.
In 2011 we introduced IT enhancements to the RampLink hand-held devices that our baggage handlers use for the tracking and efficient loading of luggage. As a result of this initiative and others, we have seen steady improvements in ensuring all bags are on the proper flight, before departure time. RampLink enhancements will be expanded to international locations in 2012.
In the increasingly crowded travel industry, frequent flyers are all too aware of how impersonal many airline services have become. At American, we want to change that. Customer service and satisfaction rank among the top issues affecting the success of our company – and with that in mind, we feel it's our obligation to ensure that a personal, human touch is always a part of our business.
In 2011 we have sought to bring more personalization and customer-employee interaction to the services we provide. This effort included "own the moment" training for our airport agents. We also launched an inflight video series featuring the faces and stories of American Airlines employees who make our customers' travel experiences possible. Engaging our customers in this way, we are able to express our gratitude for their business and loyalty, while wishing them a hearty "Welcome aboard."