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What You Can Learn From Airlines On Customer Service (Not A Joke)

IStock_000004696070XSmall The idea that airlines are doing something right when it comes to customer service seems laughable for anyone who has had to fly recently and endured rotten service, delays, crowds and any other indignity that has become an everyday part of the travel experience. Still, there is one area where airlines have pioneered a system that other industries would do well to at least consider.

With an airline, everthing is about levels of service. You get a different level if you are in a different class and you get treated differently if you are a frequent customer. Sure, you get the loyalty cards (lots of places do that), but you also get many small priveleges with it. Being an "elite" member of an airline frequent flyer program means you get to board first, don't have to pay to check your bags, get upgraded as a priority and usually even get a dedicated phone line for customer service so you don't have to wait on hold for too long.

Despite all the other difficulties the airlines have, for a long time most have had the ability to set their best customers apart and treat them differently. They even give them luggage tags. What you are doing for your best customers?

8 thoughts on “What You Can Learn From Airlines On Customer Service (Not A Joke)”

  1. Isn’t the flip side to this question… when you’re treating your best customers well, how are you treating the rest of your customers? The ones that you’d like to make a best customers.

    Reply
  2. Or, put another way, most airlines have managed to make good customer service a premium rather than basic option. In fact, a cynical observer might wonder if airlines have deliberately cultivated sub-par service for most customers in order to justify the high price of first-class seats.

    The prominent counterexample is JetBlue, which–at least thus far–hasn’t offered multiple levels of service. My question is this: which airline would you like to emulate?

    Reply
  3. Or, put another way, most airlines have managed to make good customer service a premium rather than basic option. In fact, a cynical observer might wonder if airlines have deliberately cultivated sub-par service for most customers in order to justify the high price of first-class seats.

    The prominent counterexample is JetBlue, which–at least thus far–hasn’t offered multiple levels of service. My question is this: which airline would you like to emulate?

    p.s. Sorry if this comment appears twice; I’d forgotten to sign in to TypePad.

    Reply
  4. I treat them all the same, as if they all are potentially the best customer, because they are. Is that wrong? we live under the truth of relative pluralism now, ya know? I’ll stick with default mode of ignoring everything the airline industry does in business.

    Reply
  5. Great post to start some thinking. I have always wondered why it’s a benefit to be allowed to board first. If I can just be sure my seat is there for me, and there’s room for my carry-on baggage, I’d much rather be the last to board so I have as little time as possible inside the plane.

    Reply
  6. Considering that 80% or more revenue in the airline industry comes from less than 10% of its frequent flyers…you have to decide who is important – the quality minority? Or is your focus on the quantity of your customers? What would happen for example if you lost 90% of your low-revenue customer base?

    Reply
  7. HUGE cautionary actions need to be taken when it comes to adapting anything even close to airline model of service levels. I have seen some attempts to go that route and than I have seen an absolute failure. Key is that the only people this model serves are the egos of those who run those companies.
    Customer expects best service PERIOD. They will go out of their way to circumvent the system.
    Better example: Jet Blue. One class of absolute superb service. I never had bad service with Jet Blue and I am now a very loyal customer.

    Reply
  8. I think that having different ‘levels’ of client service is a good thing. you can’t treat everyone the same because every client has a different value. Some of our most needy clients are the least profitable, so we need to track that and make sure we dedicate our time to the highest value clients. It sounds bad, but when resources are limited, it’s neccessary to keep your best clients happy.

    Reply

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