When things go wrong, it’s how you respond as a company that can make or break the hard-won relationship with your customers. I recently observed a leading low-cost airline’s Customer Experience (CX) when things did go wrong, here's what happened and what I took away from it.
Everything’s up in the air!
A few days before departure, the airline’s schedules were disrupted by bad weather across Europe. Flights were delayed or cancelled, leaving crews and planes stranded at the wrong airports. Trying to get back on schedule, the airline informed customers in advance that their flight was delayed.
Through the airline’s app, customers were kept informed about the changing departure time, gate and even the real-time location of the plane. The scheduled plane arrived but before boarding could commence, an issue with one of the tyres had to be fixed. At the same time, stressed staff at the gate had their hands tied: in order to operate tomorrow’s flights from the destination airport, they first had to find volunteers to give up their seats and to take a later flight in order to make space for stranded crew members.
Operational issues like these will sound familiar to many companies, not just airlines. The challenge is to resolve these issues in a way that either enhances – or at least does not compromise – the customer experience.
Unfortunately, it was compromised in this example because of different priorities at play and a lack of timely, clear and complete information for all parties involved. In short, the app showed that the plane landed on time, volunteers were needed for operational reasons and that the next available flight was three days later – the weather and issues with the tyre were only mentioned by the captain once boarding was complete.
How should you approach operational challenges like this?
Understanding your customers and their different journeys is key to giving them the best possible experience, even when things go wrong. Any of the operational issues from the example and how you handle them will impact individual customers in a different way.
The prospect of taking a later flight might be a real pain point for a frequent business traveller, yet with the promise of compensation, it might be an opportunity to impress a leisure customer with an extended holiday and some extra time in a nice hotel with reasonable expenses covered.
The forces behind a happy airline flight
This example shows that a continuous flow of accurate information is important and could have achieved a mutual understanding for the series of unfortunate events and therefore a less negative impact on CX. Regardless of your customer profiles, some factors are always crucial to fostering enduring relationships with your customers: for airlines, our research has shown that Fair Treatment, Recognition and Empowerment are the three most important components to forging strong customer bonds.
What these traits mean to different customer profiles and in this particular situation is harder to uncover, but both qualitative and quantitative research into CX can help you to identify and prioritise these points along your various customer journeys. Based on this research, solutions can be implemented to help you manage and provide a CX that delivers on your brand promise, no matter what operational challenges you face.
- Read more about Ipsos MORI's Customer Experience solutions and how we can help your business