Let’s face it: the airline industry is tough. It’s competitive and increasingly consolidated. (Do you remember how many airlines there were when you were a kid?) The number of domestic and international passengers rises every year—as do both costs and revenues.
To stay ahead of the competition, airlines keep close tabs on customer experience to address flyers’ concerns, preferences, and needs through reports like the recently released J.D. Powers North America Airline Satisfaction Study.
Airlines that take this information and embrace the standards in my newest book, Would You Do that to Your Mother, can gain a competitive advantage by finding ways to boost customer loyalty and raise overall customer experience.
FOCUS ON CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE TO PUT YOU A STEP AHEAD
The J.D. Powers study, now in its 14th year, measures passenger satisfaction in nearly every step of the customer journey, based on performance in seven factors (in order of importance): cost & fees, in-flight services, aircraft, boarding/deplaning/baggage, flight crew, check-in, and reservation. The study shows that overall, airlines in North America have been making solid gains in customer satisfaction. Not only did airlines register improvements in 2017, they’ve done so for the six years before that. That’s right: customers are more satisfied with air travel for the 7th straight year.
Are you focusing on customer experience? What actions does your company take to Make Mom Proud? Numerous reports and articles indicate that customer experience can truly be the differentiating factor that gives your company a competitive advantage. Make mom proud moments means that as a business leader, you give people the permission to do the right thing. When it comes to the airline industry, this is critical – especially for the frontline employees who deal with lost luggage, flight delays, and loyalty reward points. We must never lose the human element of the work we do.
“PUT OTHERS BEFORE YOURSELF” SHOWS CUSTOMERS YOU CARE AND HEAR THEM
What actions by the airlines led to this improvement in customer satisfaction? Most importantly, they listen. In Would You Do that to Your Mother, I examine companies that made improvements in key areas by focusing on the lesson “put others before yourself.” These companies listen to customers and take steps to improve their customers’ lives. They focus on helping customers achieve their goals, needs, and desires. They have their customers’ best interest in mind.
I’ve already discussed how some companies are changing the way they relate to customers. For airlines, they focus on creating a “peace of mind” experience for travelers. They build deliberate moments of trust, based on customer needs.
Alaska Airlines, already #1 in customer satisfaction for 11 years in a row among traditional carriers, has improved their customer satisfaction even further by listening and acting in a way that would make mom proud. This company can truly say “we’ve got your back.” For example, Alaska Airlines noticed more and more people are using rolling bags, and want to avoid checking them in. They invested in airplanes with larger overhead bins that fit rolling bags better than traditional bins. Result? A major increase in customer satisfaction.
Southwest Airlines, a favorite of mine because of their thoughtful approach to business, was also ranked highest among low-cost carriers. Having spoken to Sonya LaForce, Vice President of Southwest Airlines on my podcast, I know how hard Southwest works to enable employees to be the best version of themselves and go the extra mile to accommodate customers. When you consistently put customers at the forefront of your business, you’re sure to see growth.
LEADERSHIP MEANS + HIRING THE RIGHT PEOPLE = BUSINESS GROWTH
Alaska and Southwest Airlines exhibit both a commitment to service and to their employees: they have embedded strong customer service in the company’s DNA, like other companies. They have also enabled employees to be prepared and act in those moments when travelers are in distress, elevating both the customer and employee experience. Employees are guided to “connect first, then decide how to act.”
Years ago, Alaska Air decided to trust employees to care for customers on the spot, giving everyone in the company the ability to be a “customer rescue artist.” Ben Minicucci, Alaska’s president and COO, gave employees permission to act at work like they’d act at home: “Do what you think is right. We’ll trust you. You’ll never get in trouble for making a decision. And we don’t want you to call the supervisor.”
In my book, Southwest Airlines President Emerita Colleen Barrett confirms this importance of fostering positive employee engagement by stating, “we want our employees to be the same person at work as they are at home.” The leaders at Southwest want employees to prosper and think of customers as their own loved ones, whom they would treat with dignity and respect.
WHAT CAN A STRONG FOCUS ON CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE DO FOR YOU?
The J.D. Powers report makes clear the point for understanding your customers’ needs, expectations, and behaviors, while also following up with a solution to improve performance. Here are some simple values to keep in mind when working towards a winning customer experience that will make mom proud:
- Expand business by understanding lives. You have to earn growth through differentiation.
- Align action with purpose. Leaders who align actions with purpose can move mountains.
- Remember customers, take care of them, and don’t take them for granted.
- Create “we’ve got your back” moments.
How do you identify specific areas to improve your customer experience? Can everyone in your company deliver Make-Mom-Proud moments?
How do we cut through the rigmarole of business to give customers the treatment they desire, and employees the ability to deliver it? Customer experience expert, Jeanne Bliss recommends making business personal to get the traction you need by focusing on one deceptively simple question: “Would you do that to your mother?”