Can the airlines do anything right? ~ Brand Mix

Monday, August 18, 2008

Can the airlines do anything right?

Great commercials, innovative ways to reduce customer stress. Shouldn't the airlines get credit for things they're doing right at the moment? It's a sign of how deep a hole they've dug for themselves that even their best endeavors are criticized or arouse suspicion.

You'd think, for example, United Airlines would get praise for this commercial airing during the Olympics that continues the beautiful animation of previous spots and features, as ever, Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” music. Instead, people question whether United should be airing ads at all given the average customer's flying experience.

What about this story in The Detroit News about Delta Airlines using songs to get passengers to seats faster and generally reduce customer stress? Why was my first reaction an irrational feeling of not wanting to be manipulated?

The question is, having fallen so badly, what can airlines do to start turning things around?

From a communication standpoint, I think the advice of Michael Fassnacht is helpful--either don't advertise at all and reinvest in basic services or be completely upfront: "admit mistakes and be totally transparent and clear about what the airline is planning to do to address at least some of the problems."

From a customer experience perspective, take a read of Al St. Germain's thoughts in an article published recently on He is Landor's Global Director of our airline practice and previously worked for an airline. As he says in the article, he only has to mention that fact at a dinner party to be inundated with suggestions and comments.

His point-of-view is that airlines undervalue intangibles such as customer service and focus too much on the physical things: "When it comes to making changes, it's much easier to change a seat than it is to change a person's actions and behaviours."

It's not going to be an easy road but once the airlines have finished charging us for water, soft drinks, extra bags and all of that, paying more attention to customer experience is something well worth considering.

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