By JP Saunders
My head spun as I heard the words "Sorry, our priority boarding
policy doesn't include families traveling with infants and small children."
I then watched the mom and her three-year-old girl in a wheelchair take their
place in the back of the line. They ended up behind business travelers with their
carry-on luggage and behind college athletes carrying their big gym bags. The
voices of the fellow passengers who were in front of the family and felt
compelled to speak up fell on the deaf ears of the air steward who was “just
following airline policy.” Once on the plane passengers were held back as the
mom tried to settle her now screaming child while wrestling hand luggage into
the under-sized overhead bins. The airline had downgraded the five-hour national
flight to its smallest plane due to lack of seat sales.
Airline Quality Rating Report was released today. This research focuses on
U.S-based airlines and measures how the airlines performed in 2012. Yes, the
airline industry is improving when it comes to operational performance such as on-time
performance, denied boardings, and mishandled bags. But, customer complaints
jumped 20% in 2012 compared to 2011!
Putting aside my own travel nightmares, I tried to understand what
is at the root cause of so many airlines lack of customer service. Heavy messaging
around Customer Service can be found
in the marketing promises of all airlines, as it is the new competitive
landscape on which most businesses now do battle to win their customers loyalty
today. The exceptional delivery of this promise was also the vision of the first
air stewards when they imagined their role. So what happened to get us to where
we are today? Why is there now such a chasm between what is promised and what
gets delivered from airlines?
It's not just airlines – if you read The Temkin Group
latest 2013 Experience Rating (TxR) findings on Industries, you will see that
airlines rank equally at fifth from last place. Interestingly, all last-place industries are somewhat complex in nature with a high velocity of
competition and are undergoing some major transformation. Regardless of how we
got here, in today's world, customer expectations for a good experience aren’t
forgiving of a businesses increasing complexity, rising costs, retired cultural
resistance to change, redundant legacy policies, or antiquated technologies.
The impact of bad experiences is unforgivably evident, as shown in
a recent study
performed by O’Keeffe & Company – an independent market research firm – that
showed a distinct chasm between the experiences that executives believe they
are delivering and the ones that customers are getting.
Many businesses can learn a lot by simply re-imagining what their own
air travel experience would it look like if they could define it, then applying
that same process back to their own customers journey with them. Oracle is
currently running Customer Journey
programs for its customers to help them better understand how to compete on
experience. Speak to your Oracle representative for more information.