Having been very kindly asked to present to the CAPA Airlines in Transition conference in March I was rather nervous about what one might be able to tell them that they were not already doing something about.
But here is an industry with a whole host of challenges from both the past and the future. Many of the “traditional” carriers have complex legacy systems that make it difficult to deliver the data that underpins the delivery of a holistic, end to end, customer experience, whilst the relatively newer low cost carriers have set themselves up for the digital age and changing consumer preferences to deliver a clear and well defined brand promises that they keep throughout their customer’s experience.
So one might argue it is another case of legacy verses algorithm brands where strong classically built brands are being challenged by brands that are “hot straight out of the box”.
The challenge I put to the conference was that it was time to look at the legacy brands differently and to use their customer experiences to improve their businesses and build their brands in the future. Airlines work on incredibly thin margins and only appear to be making decent money at the moment due to the relatively low price of oil, so anything that can improve returns whilst using current resources applied more effectively should be encouraged.
One solution comes from one of their own - Ryanair made a significant progress with its “lets be nice rather than patronising to our customers” campaign, whoever stimulated that change did Ryanair a huge favour. Those that executed it so well did the business proud and more profitable. Not through a new re-positioned adverting campaign or a massive one off set piece event but through delivering the Brand Basics across the whole experience. Sometime doing the basics right creates a distinctive brand in may marketplaces.
In order to really deliver the value that we will all pay for, at which ever level we choose to enter the market and in which ever occasion we are travelling, business or leisure airlines need a model to help deliver their brands. The Old Era communication based brand building is no longer sufficient for customers, now if they make promises they have to keep them and if they deliver the Brand Basics consistently, then the outcome is a stronger brand and financial performance.
Virgin has always held up as such a strong brand but recently announced increase in profits despite the loss of over 217,000 passengers a 3.5% drop.
Meanwhile Ryanair increased volume in Feb by 28%. One might argue that now they are less confrontational and that they are the most punctual airline around the experience works for both leisure and business customers on their routes.
My case rests.... I think the final words should be left to the last slide of my presentation and one of the greatest customer experience geniuses to have walked on this planet.