Although Jouni Juhani Oksanen has been with airBaltic for only four months, he has already begun to revolutionise the airline’s e-commerce and make it even more customer-friendly.

Tell us a little about your background. What brought you into the airline business?

I worked for another airline before joining airBaltic. My previous career path had more to do with media and telecommunications. I worked at Nokia for many years and acquired experience all over the world. This meant that I had to fly a lot, so I first came in contact with aviation from a customer’s point of view. I joined the airline when they asked me to help it change its in-flight entertainment system. This type of work was related to my previous positions in the media business. 

How does your current position at airBaltic relate to your past experience?

When you look at the telecommunication business all over the world, whether you work for a mobile operator or a fixed network company, the competition is incredibly fierce and price wars are taking place everywhere. Countless marketing tactics are used to influence customers’ choices. I have worked in the TV business as well and am familiar with the sales and marketing methods that are used, so I do have quite extensive experience in a comprehensive, consumer-based approach to sales.

What do you hope to achieve at airBaltic? 

airBaltic has a very good website for selling plane tickets but, like most airlines, it has adopted a “one size fits all” approach until now. The website is not very personalised when it comes to selling tickets. For example, if a 70-year-old grandmother is looking to buy a ticket, then the purchasing process for her will be pretty much the same as for an 18-year-old teenage lad. We have a good universal product, which needs to be used as a solid base for making the service more personalised.

What will you do to provide more personalised service on the airBaltic website?

I believe in a customer-centric approach, which means that we need to consider how to make it easier for customers to do business with us. Advanced technologies are good tools, but we can’t stop there. First of all, the process of buying a ticket needs to be simplified. Nowadays, when you go to buy a plane ticket on an airline website, there is usually a myriad of questions to answer – both sensible and redundant – and forms to fill in. This all needs to be cleared out a bit, and the decision-making needs to be parcelled up so that you don’t have to make five decisions all at once. A customer should not have to make more than one decision at a time, and the layout of the web page has to be clear, simple and transparent. It might seem that numerous options give one more freedom, but in reality the abundance of information can be frustrating for someone who wants to get something done easily and painlessly. If the process of purchasing a ticket is too much of a hassle, then the customer might end up calling the customer service line or seeking out help from a travel agent, which would mean that our work has not been done well.

So, simplification is the key!

Yes, we want to simplify the process and make it more personal. A personalised approach means that some choices can be automatically deduced while the customers are typing in their information. This leaves the customers with less to worry about, while creating a pleasant experience and the sense that they are being taken care of. If you were purchasing a ticket to sunny Mallorca, then it would not make sense for me to offer you a set of business services. On the other hand, a nice complementary chilled drink might suit you just fine. Or, if you are travelling with a small child, then a toy or some form of children’s entertainment could be pre-prepared for your flight. Things like these matter. We need to offer the right things to the right people at the right time, and make the whole travel experience, starting from the ticket purchase, easy, simple and flawless.

In other words, technology can be used to simplify and personalize the customer experience. Do these advancements have any other applications?

First of all, we want to help people find what they are looking for. Instead of receiving useless and annoying information, our customers should navigate our website effortlessly and successfully. If people type “cheap flights to Berlin” in the search engine, then they should be taken directly to the page that offers the cheapest flight option to Berlin. If other customers type “best beaches in Thailand”, they should be taken to a more inspirational section on our website that will help them to navigate easily towards the next step. Apart from putting the customer at the centre of our focus, technologies help us to keep track of the information flow at all times. For example, if someone’s luggage has been misplaced, then we are very likely to know about this before the customer has been made aware of it, and we are in a position to initiate what I call “service recovery”, which means resolving the problem before it has become an issue to the passenger. 

What tendencies have you noticed in aviation of late?

Changes of all kinds are taking place very quickly. Various aspects of marketing are changing rapidly, and this affects aviation as well. People are spending more and more time with their digital devices, which is why marketing communication has to be established on a very individual level. The major shift is from mass marketing to an individual approach. If previously the marketing motto was “one to all”, now it has become “one to a moment”, which means that you have to look at specific moments in time where different marketing actions might be needed. With regard to airline ticket sales, at one moment people might just dreamily be pondering travel without a specific destination in mind. At another moment they will choose their destination, and at yet another still they will be ready to purchase their ticket. Each situation requires a different approach from a marketing point of view. Marketing is becoming a one-toone conversation. In most cases, airlines have not reached the same level in e-commerce as other service providers, such as clothing retailers, but we are catching up. 

You are in a perfect position to use your past experience at airBaltic. What made you make the move from one airline to another?

The offer from airBaltic was an exciting prospect for me. It is not the size of a company that matters as much as the opportunity to create something new and make a difference. airBaltic gave me an exciting playground with lots of interesting toys, so to speak. The support of the top-level company management is there, which means that our ideas are being taken into account and I have a chance to implement them.

We have learned a bit about your professional life and ideas, but not much about your personal preferences. What do you enjoy doing in your spare  time?

I absolutely love cycling! I now live in Riga, so I often go cycling in the neighbourhood. I bring my bike with me whenever I visit my home country, Finland, and I cycle there. I have really grown to like Riga, and many small things have surprised me here. Compared to Finland and also large cities all around the world, Riga’s drivers are very polite on the road. They let other cars in during traffic jams and say “thank you” when they have been treated courteously by other drivers. It’s small things like this that count! BO