United's New Set of Customer Service Apps Could Tackle Customer Woes

Apple and IBM teamed up to build mobile apps for the enterprise back in 2014, and now United Airlines is finally getting ready to roll out some customer service apps that show off the fruits of their labor. United Airlines announced on Thursday that the company is working with both IBM and Apple on several apps designed for the 50,000 iPhone and iPads that its employees currently use. The goal is to empower employees on the front lines and enable them to support customers without waiting for a computer to free up.

"This enhanced strategy with mobile solutions from IBM and Apple allows United Airlines employees to tap into the right information at the right time to instantaneously address the needs that matter most to passengers," Dee Waddell, global managing director for travel and transportation Industries at IBM, said in a company statement.

The news comes just a few weeks after a technical glitch grounded all United domestic flights nationwide. Customers were stuck at airports, where delays and cancellations caused massive confusion. Even once the issue was resolved, getting passengers up in the air was a struggle for United. With only a handful of computers available to them, agents scrambled to work as quickly as possible but were limited by the technology at their stations.

Once apps that support the rebooking process are rolled out, however, things are likely to run smoother. There's no guarantee that glitches won't happen, but if they do, the aftermath will likely be resolved faster. For example, flight attendants and gate agents will be able to use data to determine which passengers are making connections to prioritize them when needed and ensure they don't miss their connecting flight.

"We want to put our employees in a position to deliver exceptional service at every step of the travel experience," United's vice president of operations technology, Jason Birnbaum, added in the statement. "We have incredible employees out in the field who rely on technology to help our customers. The mobile solutions and working closely with IBM and Apple enables us to provide innovative solutions for them on an unprecedented scale."

In an interview with Business Insider, United CIO Linda Jojo said the company's technology team has been working on developing mobile tools for iPhone and iPads since 2014, when the airline issued the devices to gate agents and flight attendants, but the process has been slow and arduous. That's why the airline teamed up with IBM. "IBM really understands how to build systems at scale and for enterprises," she told Business Insider.

Some of the first apps are expected to debut later this year.

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