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