The pandemic has changed consumer behaviour and lifestyle and one of the industries heavily impacted was travel and aviation. With social distancing measures in place, there was no opportunity for travel, which led to many airlines cutting headcount to sustain the business. Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Scoot remain undeterred the headwinds and continued innovating during these tough times. Together with loyalty and customer engagement firm Collinson, both airlines rolled out a COVID-19 pre-departure test booking service for consumers. This led them to win the gold award for Best COVID-19 Response - Relationship Marketing at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s Loyalty & Engagement Awards 2021.
As the COVID-19 pandemic brought a seismic shift to everyone’s lives, brands that were particularly in the travel industry had to navigate uncharted territory as travel suddenly ground to a halt. Recognising the impact on their individual customers, the more consumer-centric travel brands stood out by updating their booking policies to enable flexibility without penalty and generally going above and beyond to support their customers during their time of need.
SIA, Scoot and Collinson saw first-hand the impact the pandemic had on international commerce and travel organisations. The first was the challenges faced by the medical partners who were required to publish health results to different standards across multiple platforms. Next, was the effect of the pandemic on a traveller’s confidence.
Focused on helping the industry to achieve the long-term, safe return of global travel, Collinson took proactive action against the pandemic and became the first company to make COVID-19 testing easily available at airports across the UK. The organisation has also been working with governments and those in the travel ecosystem to improve legislation and build new solutions designed to enhance and ease the traveller journey.
Similarly, SIA has implemented a suite of new and enhanced health safety measures at every touchpoint, from the ground to the air, to safeguard the well-being of their customers and crew. By introducing complimentary rebooking policies, Singapore's national carrier was able to provide greater flexibility to travellers during this period of uncertainty. In January this year, SIA and Collinson tied up to launch a pre-departure COVID-19 test booking service for their customers. The goal was to make essential travel safer, easier and less stressful.
As Collinson was in the process of launching its reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction pre-departure testing facility in the UK in late October 2020, SIA has also expressed its interest to build a similar solution. With discussions on the way, SIA hoped that this would provide seamless access to pre-departure testing.
At that time, travellers were facing multiple challenges when planning a journey, such as varying test type requirements among countries and the lack of easily accessible testing services. In recognition of this, SIA and Collinson worked swiftly to pull together a project team to devise a practical solution. Each company dedicated significant time and resources to their goal of launching the solution as soon as possible for customers, and were able to unveil their product in January 2021, just three months after the initial ideation session. This showed the dedication of SIA and Collinson to get the world travelling safely again.
The pre-departure test service was successfully launched in January 2021 for outbound travel from Singapore, Jakarta and Medan. A co-branded marketing campaign was conducted to publicise the service, and this included joint press releases, social media content, e-mail marketing, co-branded website banners and information published on Singapore Airlines’ and Collinson-owned platforms for visibility and ease of access.
In March 2021, the service was expanded to SIA customers departing Hong Kong and the UK, as well as to Scoot customers departing from Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia. The service will soon be further expanded to include customers departing Malaysia. This showcases our ongoing commitment to enhancing the service and making it available for more customers. The partnership between SIA, Scoot and Collinson is an ongoing one, as the three brands will continue to work closely to further expand and enhance the solution to meet the needs of the airlines’ customers. With pre-departure testing a mandatory and frequently evolving requirement for many countries, this solution makes it easier for the airlines’ customers to obtain and present the correct testing documentation required for their travel journey.
As COVID-19 continues to bring ever-evolving challenges for travellers, the solution will remain agile, adaptable and supportive of customers’ needs, in order to enable a more frictionless travel experience.
The solution was kick-started by a dedicated project team with representatives from SIA and Collinson from a range of different business functions, including business development IT, marketing, operations, partnerships, solutions and technology.
As customer service and assistance was crucial for customers looking to book a pre-departure COVID-19 test, a number of new, multi-lingual call centre employees were recruited to manage the COVID-19 test bookings and support travellers with any questions they might have. The existing network of Collinson assistance call centres was also leveraged to ensure that a high level of medical knowledge was accessible, while new employees were selected in order to fill any gaps in local language support – aligned to the markets where the solution was available.
A network of partner clinics was recruited – each one selected based on their range of available in-city clinics, to ensure ease of access for customers. Alongside cost-effectiveness to help keep the price of the tests affordable, the clinics were also selected based on their ability to provide the required pre-departure tests in each market and within the stipulated timeframe of 36 to 72 hours. Since RT-PCR tests typically require 24 to 36 hours to process, partnering with in-city clinics ensured that SIA and Scoot customers could simply select their most convenient option from a range of local clinics, instead of having to travel to the airport for their test, before returning to the airport two to three days later for their flight.
Additionally, the partner clinics were required to have accreditation with the local health authorities to be able to conduct the appropriate tests that matched the pre-flight departure criteria. Fullerton Health was one such partner, and they also supported the IATA Travel Pass pilot on Singapore Airlines flights.
The response for the campaign was extremely positive, garnering more than 55 pieces of standalone coverage in noteworthy broadcast, print and digital media giants located across the Asia Pacific region which includes CNBC, Bloomberg, The Business Times and among others.
There was also an increase in corporate reputation scores, with a 138% jump in awareness, 97% jump in consideration and 74% jump in attitude. The campaign also led both airlines to witness a 52% increase in purchase intent and 176% in advocacy.
Similarly, SIA, Scoot and Collinson also experienced positive reviews for media as well, with 3,776 media placements (a 60% increase compared to previous eight months) ; 29.9 billion media impressions (a 102% increase compared to previous eight months), and blanket international media coverage across a four-month period. Various stories appeared multiple times across major national media outlets such as BBC, Financial Times, Sky News, CNBC Asia, The Telegraph, The Independent, SCMP, and The Straits Times.
Despite the slow progress in travel recovery in Asia Pacific, the solution has been received positively by SIA and Scoot customers, evident from the gradual increase in pre-departure bookings that has been received. In a post-trip survey conducted by Singapore Airlines in March 2021 during the early days of the service and portal implementation, 76.2% of the respondents said that they would recommend their friends and family to book pre-departure tests through Singapore Airlines. This solution is another step towards achieving our goal of the safe, long-term return to travel, through the implementation of robust testing protocols.
To date, almost 5,000 test bookings have been made. This number is expected to increase with time, with the expansion of the service to other markets and the eventual return of international travel.
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