Last time, I told you all about an airline customer service tale gone horribly wrong. There were multiple steps along the way that could have prevented how bad it was. But I take this to be a fault of internal employee alignment. We have to know and understand our brand before we can act as its cultural ambassador to others. In a ridiculous kind of way, our employees have to be beauty pageant winners -- walking tall with the tiara, the scepter, the (faux) ermine cape -- and being gracious as possible to everyone.
Resting on our laurels never yields anything good especially these days as power has shifted more to the hands and the voices of the customer. This means that everything matters. Not to make you paranoid or anything but every thing does matter. Every single mappable touchpoint between you and your customers can be moments of glory or doom. If you lose focus or you don't think it's important enough to pay attention, then you're headed for certain doom.
As backup, I've gone to my favorite Customer Experience expert, Bruce Temkin. In this post, he shares that customer experience leaders have more loyal customers than the laggards which is kind of a no brainer. The eye popping item is that the gap is 15 - 17% in three areas: willingness to buy more products, reluctance to switch and likelihood to recommend. That level of "stickiness" is enviable in any industry and particularly enviable these days as consumers are more and more driven by price than before.
So on to more practical airline examples and I do recall that I promised to share more numbers. In this post, I mentioned JetBlue's Jetitude as a model for employee engagement leading to positive, or as positive as possible, customer experience. Jetitude consists of:
- Be in Blue always
- Be personal
- Be the answer
- Be engaging
- Be thankful to every customer
As I said then, Jetitude is effective because it's action and goal oriented with customer experience as the underlying theme. What's striking is the infinitive "to be" which means that these are to be active behaviors and attitudes at all times especially "Be in Blue" which means living JetBlue corporate values and the brand identity at all times. It also means that these active behaviors drive a sense of ownership and accountability. Every employee has the power and permission to "be the answer" within the context of the JetBlue brand for the customer without fear of reprisal. Great stuff.
And this translates to real performance metrics. In that 2009 Airline Quality Report which measures customer complaints, on time performance, lost baggage among other items, JetBlue ranked 3rd while the other carrier ranked 13th out of 18. You could suggest a connection between employee engagement and these metrics.
Earnings also could be correlated. Last week, JetBlue announced a record 50% jump in profits for the second quarter ($30MM versus $20MM) with $939MM revenues was a record representing 16% growth. The company attributed this to fuller planes and growing while other airlines were suffering in this economic climate. They even had to add employees! Lest you think this was a fluke, JetBlue also recorded profits for all of 2009. Finally, the stock price has risen 23% in the past year. They are doing something right.
How'd the other airline do? Well, the good news is they were in the black. The bad news is that it was its first quarterly profit since 2007 and largely attributed to baggage handling and seat upgrade fees. In fairness to them, they were given credit for tightening cost controls and there is some pocketed rebound in business travel. Also, their stock price has improved nicely in the past year (but only because they were in dire straits last year). On a comparative basis, you can say that JetBlue is doing better.
I could bring up Zappo's success here as well but some may say I'm beating a dead horse here. The point is that customer experience, though intangible, has real meaty impact on how well you perform as a company overall. The point also is that it bears the time, money, resources, attention, etc., to make sure you communicate your brand promise clearly to your employees so that they can be your standard bearers to the customers. It's mission critical.
Let's face it: there will be some people that we can never satisfy because it's economically infeasible to satisfy some demands. That being said, we have to try every single time to "win" the customer's attention and loyalty. It's not a coin toss with the probability of being 50% heads (win) and 50% tails (loss). You have to hit a theoretical 100%. If you're a student of statistics, you know that this is hard to do but you've got to try for it every single time.
What'$ your view on the dollar$ and cent$ of cu$tomer experience?