JetBlue built its brand on a new standard of in-flight customer experience when it launched in 1999. Guided by its brand North Star to “bring humanity back to air travel,” the fledgling airline offered beleaguered economy passengers better seats, better entertainment, better snacks, and an all-around better customer experience. JetBlue had the prescience to understand that customer experience is inextricably linked to brand experience.
Our TRUE brand compass research shows that JetBlue has established itself as a major airline brand with consumers but has not yet risen above the competitive pack. JetBlue ranks as a TRUE brand follower, alongside air transportation stalwarts like American Airlines and United Airlines. But will it rise to leader status? On the back of a couple of headline-grabbing passenger incidents, a recent USA Today article raised questions about whether this pioneer of a better airline customer experience has “Lost Its Heart.” For me, the question is not so much whether JetBlue has lost its heart but whether the brand has failed to keep pace with consumers’ rising expectations of brands. Does JetBlue still have the prescience to see what will build the airline brand of the future?
The Forrester Asia Pacific team is currently meeting in Bangkok to discuss how we support our clients in the age of the customer. Meeting friends and colleagues overseas is always a great experience. We get away from our desks and exchange ideas, bringing focus to our efforts for the following year. But, of course, you have to get everyone to the destination venue for this to happen.
One of the first things we always end up discussing on first meeting one of our colleagues is the quality of the journey. “How was your flight?” is the first question we end up asking each other. As I talked with two of my colleagues from Sydney, I learned that all three of us had been on the same Qantas flight to Bangkok that same afternoon. As we compared our journeys, it was amazing to discover that we had had three markedly different experiences, despite all being on the very same aircraft.
I was in economy, having paid a little extra for emergency exit seats. The flight wasn’t full, so I had a row of three seats to myself. Lots of room to spread out, and the flight was very quiet, easy, and uneventful. My experience, though, was of an older plane with technology that was, frankly, no longer meeting my minimum standard. The entertainment units were old and tiny, and the user interface was absurdly complex. But because I was comfortable, I was willing to overlook it.
One of my colleagues, the regional sales director from Australia, was one section ahead of me on the plane, also in economy. She reported a nightmare flight with no air conditioning, poor food, and crowded seats. Her experience was quite negative. We both ate the same food, but her experience of it was undoubtedly influenced by the hot temperatures and crowded seating.
For one thing, if you’ve ever been to London City Airport, it’s an experience that’s far superior to what you’ll get at bigger and better-known airports that I won’t name.* So even though I like to think that I know a bit about customer experience, Declan clearly has something special going on.
For another thing, Declan is charming. Taken together, that combination of content and presentation is, well, intimidating for your humble forum host.
In the run-up to the event, Declan took the time to write some great detailed answers to our questions about what he’s been doing, how his efforts have evolved, and what advice he’d give to others on the journey to customer experience maturity.
I hope you enjoy his answers, and I look forward to seeing many of you in London on November 19th and 20th!
Q. When did London City Airport first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
A. London City Airport (LCY) has been focused on customer experience since its doors opened in 1987 — it’s a niche player, serving the travel needs of the business communities of Canary Wharf and the City and the political establishment of Westminster, and our passengers expect a consistent, best-in-class experience.
You’re at home when your phone rings. It’s your child’s summer camp calling to tell you that she never arrived. No one knows where she is.
Make your gut churn? Yes, if you’re a parent — or even if you’re not.
If you were following the news last week, you know that Annie and Perry Klebahn did get that phone call. That’s when they found out that their 10-year-old daughter Phoebe hadn’t gotten off a United Airlines flight to Traverse City, Michigan.
Here are the highlights of what happened.
Phoebe had been traveling alone. Her parents had paid United a $99 fee for the “unaccompanied minor” service and had every reason to believe that their daughter was in good hands. According to the complaint letter that her parents wrote to United, when they dropped Phoebe off at the San Francisco airport, a United employee put an identifying wristband on her and told her to “only go with someone with a United badge on and that she would be accompanied at all times.” But when Phoebe arrived in Chicago to change planes, no one met her. The little girl reportedly asked flight attendants three times to let her use a phone to call her parents, and they told her to wait. She also asked if someone had called camp to tell them she had missed her flight, and they said they’d take care of it (but then didn’t).