World Wise

Keep­ing cus­tomers sa­tised is hard. It’s harder when your busi­ness is lled with com­plex­ity

Business Traveler (USA) - - NEWS - By Ross Atkin­son

The Prover­bial View from the Cor­po­rate Cock­pit

Travel is a fluid and dy­namic ex­pe­ri­ence that pulls on sev­eral of our emo­tional strings. So for many of us, that makes it very per­sonal. Most of the time, the same can be said for the CEOs of the travel in­dus­try; try­ing to put smiles on cus­tomer’ faces and of­fer prod­ucts and ser­vices that make the trav­el­ing pub­lic want to come back to their brand. I would say that, in the ag­gre­gate, many of those lead­ers ac­com­plished their mis­sion in 2013.

De­spite pas­sen­gers hav­ing to pay more to fly, over­all sat­is­fac­tion with air­lines im­proved in 2013 ac­cord­ing to the J.D. Power 2014 North Amer­ica Air­line Sat­is­fac­tion Study. The re­search, as the name im­plies, mea­sures how sat­is­fied cus­tomers are with North Amer­ica air car­ri­ers.

At a time when the cost of fly­ing is on the rise, the play­ers are chang­ing and loy­alty pro­grams are be­ing turned on their heads, on a 1,000-point scale, over­all pas­sen­ger sat­is­fac­tion with air­lines is at a record high of 712, a 17-point in­crease from 2012. Some would say that the trav­el­ing pub­lic has low­ered its ex­pec­ta­tions; what we get from air travel now is just a way of life, and the num­bers re­flect that fact. De­spite im­prove­ments, air­line sat­is­fac­tion continues to trail ho­tels (777) and rental cars (775).

For most of us, the ex­pe­ri­ence and emo­tional con­nec­tion with air­line sat­is­fac­tion be­gins when we’re ex­plor­ing a reser­va­tion. It can start as early as one’s look­ing at an air­line’s site for an ideal travel ex­pe­ri­ence at the right price, and con­tinue through one’s check-in and all the way through to bag­gage claim.

As a mat­ter of fact, J.D. Power finds that if the check-in process is longer than 15 min­utes, over­all sat­is­fac­tion de­clines by 41 points; even higher for low-cost car­ri­ers. In the same re­spect at the tail end of a trip, those check­ing a bag and wait­ing more than 15 min­utes to re­trieve their lug­gage are also 41 points lower than those who re­trieve their lug­gage in less than 15 min­utes.

From costs and an­cil­lary fees, board­ing and de­plan­ing, lounges, seats, in­flight ser­vice and en­ter­tain­ment to sur­round­ing as­pects of travel such as weather or air traf­fic con­trol – all play a role in the cus­tomer’s sat­is­fac­tion. It goes to show that the trav­eler has sev­eral emo­tional in­flec­tion points on a brand through­out their jour­ney.

The in­crease in cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion will be put to the test this sum­mer in the States. Ac­cord­ing to the Air­lines for Amer­ica, an in­dus­try trade group, air traf­fic dur­ing the Sum­mer 2014 travel sea­son is pro­jected to rise to its high­est level in six years. Ap­prox­i­mately 210 mil­lion pas­sen­gers (2.28 mil­lion per day) are ex­pected to fly US air­lines from June 1 through Au­gust 31, up 1.5 per­cent from 2013. This in­cludes a record num­ber of pas­sen­gers trav­el­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally on US car­ri­ers – 29.9 mil­lion trav­el­ers (325,000 per day) on in­ter­na­tional flights.

A broad spec­trum of fac­tors play into a cus­tomer’s travel ex­pe­ri­ence, and hence into their level of sat­is­fac­tion. Costs, emo­tional trig­gers that re­flect on the brand, in­creased sea­sonal traf­fic, and other cir­cum­stances are con­stantly on the radar in the CEO’s Cor­po­rate Cock­pit. We will see if the in­dus­try can in­crease the smiles on the trav­el­ing pub­lic once again next year. BT

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