Few industries have been more affected by the COVID-19 pandemic than travel. Singapore Airlines (SIA) faced a more difficult situation than most airlines given the lack of a domestic market in the geographically small nation-state.
A robust digitalisation push in the years leading up to the pandemic softened the worst effects and allowed the airline to quickly pivot. SIA, which has consistently ranked among the world’s best airlines, knew creating a smoother customer experience would be vital to win back wary flyers.
“We have developed a series of digital solutions across various touch points in the customer journey,” explains George Wang, senior vice president of IT at Singapore Airlines. “These solutions can help to instil greater peace of mind for customers when they travel with us.”
The solutions include contactless options for customers, digitised means for health checks and vaccination requirements, and non-health-related digital upgrades, such as allowing travellers to control entertainment screens from their smartphones.
SIA’s digitalisation efforts have already made a significant impact on the airline, saving 500,000 staff hours, according to Wang’s estimates.
Digitalisation is a strategic enabler for SIA’s long-standing goals to maintain excellence in products and customer service, optimise operations, and maximise workforce productivity. The aim is to cultivate a digital mindset, spur innovation, and encourage collaboration. These elements must work in harmony to drive true digital transformation.
“Across the SIA group, different technologies are being explored and integrated to transform the way we work, the way we serve our customers and, ultimately, make the travel experience more rewarding for our customers,” Wang says.
“We believe it is critical not just to explore new technologies but, more importantly, to use them meaningfully to improve customer experience, optimise our operations, and enable new ways of working for our employees,” he adds.
Toward that end, SIA has invested significantly in digital solutions that it co-created with cabin crews. “This suite of solutions has transformed the work experience,” Wang says.
It’s also garnered recognition. The Singapore Airlines Cabin Crew Digital Ecosystem was named a leader across all industries in Singapore’s 2021 Techblazer Awards (Enterprise category), a major innovation accolade.
Doubling down on innovation
Innovation is one of SIA’s core strengths. It enables the company to offer industry-leading airline products, deliver world-renowned customer service, enhance its operational efficiencies, and create new business opportunities.
SIA launched KrisLab, its digital innovation lab, in 2018 to explore how technology and open innovation can address some of the airline’s key business challenges. SIA’s accelerator and app challenge (one of the largest in the industry with participants from 70 countries around the world every year) has been successful in finding innovative solutions.
In partnership with National University of Singapore (NUS), SIA opened the SIA-NUS Digital Aviation Corporate Lab in January 2022. The lab is developing solutions to help pilots get better rest, cabin crews serve customers better, and provide a more comfortable customer experience on flights.
Partnering for success
The company’s long-standing focus on digitisation helped reduce the need for email and manual reviews to enact service changes, send daily reminder emails for pending change approvals, and streamline the overall user interface for staff workflows.
In particular, the airline launched a digital initiative known as SQNow in partnership with ServiceNow. It “enables us to respond and access key actions on the go, quickly, and in a secure manner,” notes Elizabeth Wong, SIA’s senior manager in application services for digital and web operations.
ServiceNow® IT Service Management (ITSM) underpins SQNow. Wang characterises the boost ServiceNow provides for SIA as one that helped unite a variety of disparate IT operation processes, from implementing new features to monitoring problems to helping different teams work together seamlessly.
The more functions that can be automated, the more nimbly the company can react to change, he points out, whether brought about by a pandemic, regulators, or customers.
Executives can leverage ITSM to rapidly consolidate disparate tools to a single system of engagement in the cloud. This boosts resilience, increases employee productivity, and creates high-quality experiences regardless of where work takes place.
“We studied the market in depth, evaluated several different service providers and, ultimately, went with ServiceNow,” Wang says. “They proved themselves the most flexible and suited to our requirements.”
“Airlines are unique in the sheer pace of change we have to keep up with,” he continues, mentioning the litany of stakeholders airlines must consider—everyone from passengers to airports to caterers. “We are both extremely complex and highly regulated, which pushes us to be more flexible and agile in meeting these demands,” he adds.
The next chapter
Looking ahead, Wang intends to continue to focus on instilling a digital culture across the organisation, ensuring staff have the “right mindset” when it comes to digitalisation. To that end, he doesn’t foresee SIA’s digitisation drive slowing in the slightest.
“There’s so much unfinished work ahead of us, and so many ways we can continue to leverage technology to do better,” he says.
ServiceNow will play a role in the next chapter of SIA’s digital evolution, Wang notes, as workflow and process automation form an increasingly vital foundation to the airline’s overall functioning.
“In our change management processes, we want to remove as much friction as possible,” he sums. “ServiceNow’s solution has been integral to this process—making it as transparent and easy as possible for the user.”
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