Image: Wikimedia Commons

APEX Insight: This week JetBlue announced a new partnership with Gladly, a startup that specializes in simplifying and unifying customer communication across multiple channels. Does this signal a new direction for how airlines will handle customer service?

JetBlue is attempting to solve the problem of complicated communication threads by doing away with case numbers and redundant interactions. On Tuesday, the airline announced a new partnership with Gladly, a startup that specializes in simplifying and unifying customer communication, even down to a passenger’s nickname – and, yes, it even speaks fluent emoji. The deal will bring together all of the airline’s conversations with a passenger across all channels – from phone to chat to social media – into one consistent relationship.

“We started JetBlue with the idea that we could bring humanity back to air travel, but the customer support technology hasn’t kept up with the increasing number of ways customers want to interact with us,” explained Frankie Littleford, JetBlue’s vice-president of Customer Support.

“The customer support technology hasn’t kept up with the increasing number of ways customers want to interact with us.” — Frankie Littleford, JetBlue

The American low-cost carrier will introduce the platform’s e-mail functionality by the end of this year, with other features rolling out incrementally in 2018. Once that is done, customers will be able to move from one communication channel – such as phone, text, chat, e-mail, Tweets or Facebook messages – to the next without having to repeat and recap their previous conversations with JetBlue customer service agents.

“JetBlue and Gladly have a shared focus on people and humanizing every experience,” said Joseph Ansanelli, CEO and co-founder of Gladly. “By empowering JetBlue crewmembers with technology that helps them understand their customers more deeply, it frees up crewmembers to focus on what matters most – the person.” Gladly’s own website touts the partnership as furthering its own mission to reinvent customer service: “We would make people the atomic unit, not cases or tickets.”

JetBlue is also investing a reported $2.5 million in Gladly through its venture capital subsidiary, JetBlue Capital Ventures, as part of its odyssey to disrupt the status quo. This is part of a now pervasive trend in the industry: Airlines realize how nimble they often aren’t; and so, through incubators, they champion the work of startups and entrepreneurs who are.

Jordan juggles deadlines across various time zones as he writes about travel, culture, entertainment, and technology.