The airline industry is in quite a mess. Extra fees being charged for bags have passengers feeling even more “nickle and dimed” than ever. Fuel costs are driving more people to take their vacations at home. Cut-backs at airlines mean fewer employees doing more work = grumpy people. What is an airline to do?
Would you be surprised if I said “Improve the Customer Experience”! Well, it is not just me saying it this time. J.D. Power and Associates just released the results of their 2008 North American Airline Satisfaction Study. Declining customer satisfaction is linked with the level of customer service provided by airline staff, even more than it is linked with concerns over extra fees and prices. Per the press release:
The study finds that satisfaction with “people” factors—including knowledge, courtesy and helpfulness of reservation and gate agents, check-in staff and flight crew—has declined dramatically since 2007, and is the leading contributing factor to the overall decline in customer satisfaction with airlines in 2008. The decrease in satisfaction with people factors is more than twice as large as the decline in satisfaction with price factors.
The press release goes on to quote Sam Thanawalla, director of their global hospitality and travel practice, who urges airlines to invest in their employees in order to improve the customer experience.
Here is the Customers Rock! take on the situation:
In a tough economy like this one, customers will be very choosy about where they spend their hard-earned money. If a customer has decided to take a trip, they want to it to be great! Airlines need to get with the program and look at the experience from the customer’s perspective. It won’t take much “mystery shopping” to figure out where to find the pain points. It could be just a few simple things that make the difference, but airlines need to get into a conversation with their customers in order to figure this out. Southwest Airlines has done an exceptionally good job of this with their Nuts About Southwest blog, even changing some of their policies as a result of customer feedback. (Fun aside – Southwest just blogged about MyStarbucksIdea, and now their customers are starting to ask for MySouthwestIdea… think it will catch on?)
Yes, the customer experience really does matter to customers, and it matters more every day. Marketing, customer service, HR, sales – all departments need to put their heads together and figure out how to create better customer relationships via the experience. Quick – do it before your competition does!
(Photo credit: egdigital)