How Open Innovation Can Help AirAsia Improve the Customer Experience

Published Apr-10-17

Breakthrough:
A new way for AirAsia to provide customers with more targeted offers via social media.

Company:
AirAsia, Malaysia

The Story:

How Open Innovation Can Help AirAsia Improve the Customer Experience The best ideas don't often come from a single person, a lone inventor working in isolation - they're the result of collaboration.

One of the most exciting ways to collaborate is to get smart people together for a bout of intense brainstorming, an open innovation approach known as hackathons. At their best, they are a low-cost way to generate solid ideas that can lead to brand new products, services and processes or generate breakthrough thinking that solves problems. Hackathons encourage creative thinking and allow people to take risks without any fear of failure.

First Hackathon for Airline

In March 2017, low-cost airline AirAsia in Kuala Lumpur organized its first ever hackathon to generate ideas to help it improve the customer experience. A total of 97 people took part in this 18-hour event, called AIRVOLUTION, forming 20 teams representing such countries as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka among others. They were asked to come up with solutions to one specific challenge: "How do you profile AirAsia fans based on their digital social footprints to improve customer experience?"

Ideas were discussed, debated and modified as each team shaped their concept, with mentors on hand to provide assistance and guidance if required. When they were done, teams had up to eight minutes to demonstrate their working proof of concept/prototype in a live demo for the judges. The panel, which included AirAsia senior executives based their assessments on several criteria, including impact, creativity and design.

Hackathon Winners

The overall winners of the open innovation event was a team called Aviato comprised of individuals from Singapore. Their proposal was for a way to piece together real-time user profiles from Instagram pictures and likes, which would allow AirAsia to send customers more targeted offers of air destinations and food that reflected users' interests. For their innovative efforts, the team was awarded 25,000 Malaysian ringgits (approx. $USD 5,600), five return flights to any AirAsia destination and 100,000 AirAsia BIG Points (its loyalty program).

"We were really impressed by the creative problem-solving and technical knowledge on display this weekend," said AirAsia Chief Data and Digital Officer Nikunj Shanti. "The teams demonstrated some truly out-of-the-box thinking and we look forward to seeing more innovative ideas on how to make travel even better for our guests."

New Thinking and Directions

In addition to garnering new ideas, hackathons such as AirAsia's event inspire organizations to view things in a different light. Even if this open innovation approach doesn't lead to the development of a specific product or service, it can provoke fresh internal thinking that helps keep a company on its toes, allowing it to explore new and exciting avenues that it may not have otherwise considered.

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