Archive for May, 2012
According to SITA (an information technology company that works with airlines), 99.1% of checked bags were delivered on-time to airline passengers worldwide in 2011. This translated to 25.8 million mishandled bags worldwide in 2011, down from 32.3 million in 2010. Obviously airline passengers don’t want to be a part of that 0.9% that actually lost a bag. So why aren’t airlines doing something more to prevent luggage loss? Or even taking it a step further by making it easier for a customer to check baggage? It appears Qantas, an Australian airline, is trying to do just that with their Q Bag Tag. The bag tag came out of Qantas’ strategy of the Next Generation check-in system, originally launched in 2010, that aimed to speed up the check-in process for passengers and to reduce congestion in their terminals.
The Q Bag Tag utilizes RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology that allows a passenger who checked in online, or with a mobile phone, to go straight to the fast bag drop area, which allows for a quicker drop-off for their luggage. At the bag drop area, the technology synchronizes the passenger’s flight details with their bag. The tag then allows monitoring of the bag’s whereabouts and status after check-in. The nice benefit from this technology is that it eliminates the additional step to check the luggage with an attendant and then proceed to the bag drop area with your luggage. The tag stores detailed flight information, up to four flights, and the tag is reprogrammable for future flights. The airline is currently selling the tags for $49.95 Australian dollars, or for 7,000 Qantas frequent flyer points.
Unfortunately, the majority of airlines, trains, and buses still rely on the tried and true method of temporary paper bag tags with a barcode (and not necessarily a green or reusable technology). However, I think any technology that can help me speed the process of checking baggage and allows me to catch my flight quicker is a good thing. My U.S. Passport already has a RFID tag in it, so why not my luggage?
Allstate has created a handful of mobile applications, most of which are product and service related. Unlike GEICO which released apps that incorporated its popular TV commercial characters, Allstate is Allbusiness. Business is fine, as long as I can get a quote easily, access current policy information, and track claims. So do Allstate’s mobile applications cover these needs?
Allstate Mobile: Allstate has come a long way since the original implementation of its mobile application. Allstate Mobile gives customers “everything you need, from policy information and bill pay to accident support, at the touch of a button.” One of the most impressive features is the Accident Toolkit, which gives a step-by-step checklist for obtaining all necessary information (accident location, drivers, witnesses, photos, accident notes) and submitting a claim. Customers can also get a ballpark estimate on an auto insurance policy when adding a new vehicle or driver to a policy.
Allstate Motor Club: Another outstanding application, but only for Allstate Motor Club customers. Like the Accident Toolkit, this mobile application covers all roadside assistance essentials. GPS capabilities pinpoint customer location. Card-less innovation enable customers to get emergency roadside service with one-touch. The diagnostic menu enables customers to choose which type of service is needed (dead battery, flat tire, locked out, etc.) Lastly, customers can track the dispatch information, such as ETA and service provider details.
Good Hands Roadside Assistance: This app works similar to the Allstate Motor Club application; however, it’s open to non-Allstate customers. The main difference is that the tracking of the dispatch information is not available.
Digital Locker: Available to everyone, this application works as a home inventory of your personal property and can be stored directly into your phone. Consumers can catalog personal property, add pictures of inventory, estimate the value of items, and even synchronize data to the cloud.
GoodRide by Allstate: This application is targeted to motorcycle riders as a “Free app that helps you log all the details about your bike so you can log more time on the road – even if you’re not an Allstate customer.” Consumers can plan a trip with information regarding local weather and gas stations and they can share ride summaries on Facebook and Twitter.
Tag In by Allstate: Allstate has been a large supporter of no texting while driving. This application has the ability to send pre-selected messages with a few touches instead of typing out each letter.
In my opinion Allstate does a great job of producing usable applications for its customers. The roadside assistance apps and digital locker are very nice additions to the Allstate mobile app family, which aren’t commonly produced by Allstate competitors. Even though all of the apps add value, the one thing lacking is the ability for prospects to get a quote. Prospects can search for an agent or call a 1-800 number; however, they can’t receive a quote via mobile application at this time.
The U.S. payments industry is probably the most advanced on the planet when you consider the size of the market, card penetration, the extent of innovation and many other factors. Yet, one development where the U.S. has been seemingly lagging is in the technology required to authenticate credit and debit card transactions. In an effort to reduce card fraud, more than 50 countries have now migrated to EMV enabled cards (named after the developers Europay, MasterCard and Visa) incorporating smart chip technology. In comparison, the U.S. payments industry still relies on the magnetic stripe, invented by IBM back in 1960, to authenticate payments.
The reality is that EMV didn’t catch on in the U.S. because there wasn’t the same need to address fraud as there was in other countries. Factor in the huge cost of changing card terminals at millions of merchants and there has been little justification to make the switch. However, recently, both Visa and MasterCard have outlined their plans to implement EMV enabled terminals by April, 2013. The initiative is being motivated by a desire to usher in the age of mobile payments by equipping merchants with terminals that can accommodate both EMV and NFC (Near Field Communications). NFC facilitates payment at the point-of-sale with a smartphone and is the platform used by two of the leading innovators in mobile payments – Google Wallet and Isis.
One of the first countries to adopt EMV was the United Kingdom – my homeland – which embraced a system branded as “Chip and PIN” back in 2004. As a frequent visitor to the U.K., I have experienced firsthand the blank stares of waiters and sales assistants as I have handed over my U.S. credit card and explained that “I need to swipe” backed up with “I don’t have a PIN” (the machines that accept chip cards can also accept a mag stripe). Usually we get through it, eventually, although occasionally a similarly bemused manager has to be called and the additional delay and uncertainty can be frustrating. The issue will only get worse for travelers given that, in just 4 years, anyone in the U.K. below the age of 30 is unlikely to have any concept of signing a credit card receipt unless they have been specifically trained in how to handle visitors from America.
Recently there has been some movement toward EMV here in the U.S. specifically for cards targeted at international travelers. A handful of issuers now offer EMV enabled cards including Chase and U.S. Bank. As an existing Chase British Airways Visa Signature cardholder I recently received my replacement card with “smart chip technology.” A customer communication followed, encouraging me to “shop like a local everywhere” and explaining that the chip will “avoid inconveniences at the point of purchase when traveling abroad.” To add a little urgency to the situation the communication provided an interesting fact posed as a question: “Did you know that chip cards are required at unattended kiosks on the London Underground?” Next to this question a phone number was provided in case I wanted them to “rush” one to me “for no additional charge.”
U.S. Bank has been communicating to its FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature cardholders promoting the card as “one of the first ‘smart cards’ in the U.S. that features a traditional magnetic stripe and EMV technology.” The communication highlighted the fact that Forbes recently named the card to its list of “10 Financial Innovations That Make Your Life Easier in 2012” siting “smarter travel-friendly spending.” (Source: Comperemedia)
U.S. card issuers can learn from the experience of their neighbors north of the border when it comes to EMV cardholder communications. Canada began migrating to EMV in 2008 and there is still work to do. Canadian banks continue to educate their customers through statement inserts and other cardholder communications suggesting that it is an on-going effort. RBC mailed customers in May setting expectations that “for several years to come you will experience two types of transactions” and to reassure them that transactions are “just as secure as ever.” The bank also provided a step-by-step guide to using the card. (Source: Comperemedia)
It seems that cards with smart chips are finally on their way to the U.S. International travelers will understand the benefits, but the bulk of consumers will need to be convinced through on-going communication. The U.S. payments industry is gearing up to accommodate multiple transaction methods as it begins the migration towards mobile payments.
Feeling adventurous? Then you should check out Nextpedition, a new take on travel, introduced by American Express. Through American Express’ Nextpedition website, you can build a custom-made trip based on your personal preferences, but the destination and itinerary will remain a mystery until the day you depart. To start, consumers take an online quiz to determine their travel profile, which includes questions about hobbies, interests and even social media activity. Consumers will find out what kind of traveler they are, defined by a “travel sign.” Examples of these signs include “Poshaholic,” “Hiplomat,” “Nature Junky” and more – talk about marketing segmentation, right?
To complete the entire process, travelers must also consult with a specially trained American Express Nextpedition Specialist who helps to create the mystery itinerary. Once everything is booked, travelers will receive a pre-programmed travel console/smart phone, which will communicate the itinerary to them day-by-day, and allow travelers to share their experiences on Facebook. Nextpedition trips are available for individual travelers or groups, they vary in price point starting at $1,000 for domestic and $2,500 for international, and there is a seven-day minimum duration.
The Nextpedition website intrigued me enough that I took the Travel Profiler myself. I went through 15 entertaining questions which were clearly aimed at differentiating the music-lovers from the sports fanatics and the foodies. Here are a couple sample questions:
The zombie apocalypse is real and they are attacking. What do you do?
a) Look up how vampires were dealt with in the middle ages
b) Search for an antidote, because there has to be a cure
c) Build a flamethrower out of an old grill and car parts
d) Grab a baseball bat and start swinging
e) Have a massive party, cause it’s all over anyway
While on your trip, a book will be written about you. What’s its title?
a) Eyes on Design
b) The Movable Feaster
c) The Architect of Sound
d) The Superfan
e) Off the Grid
At the end of the quiz I was deemed a “Gastronaut,” but I was also given runner-up options of “Blisstorian” and “Tasteblazer.” (I obviously fell into the foodie bucket.) Each runner-up travel sign came with a general description, and the ability to choose either if I thought it was a better fit for me. Once I had selected my preferred sign, I was given the option to post my travel sign to Facebook or start my Nextpedition planning. Interestingly, in order to start the Nextpedition, I was still required to sign into Facebook. Needless to say, this is a very social media-oriented program. Although I stopped the process at this point, I am pretty confident that it would have taken me all the way to a tasty new adventure.