There are few industries that seem to cause as many irate and dissatisfied customers as the airline industry.
Think back to the recent incident with United, where a male passenger was asked to disembark an aircraft since the flight was overbooked, and when he refused, the flight attendants responded by literally dragging him off the airplane.
I’ll give my own example. Several months ago, I had a flight from Buenos Aires to Medellin. After arriving at the gate, the airline personnel rudely informed me that I would have to take a flight six hours later instead. They gave me no choice in the matter and when I protested, they told me unapologetically and matter-of-factly, “You have no choice.”
I suspect that they also chose me since I was one of the few (or maybe the only) passengers who had used airline credit to purchase my flight. Whatever the reason, the entire situation left me so infuriated and upset, mostly due to the way that I was spoken to. Had they phrased things in a nice way or been more apologetic about the whole situation, I probably would have been much more understanding. In exchange for getting on a later flight, they did let me sit in the VIP room before my flight and gave me additional airline credit to be used towards a future Avianca flight. But regardless, the way that they treated me left me angry enough to write them a horrible review.
A few years earlier, I was in a similar situation that had a different ending. I took a flight from Istanbul to Paris with Turkish Airlines and was asked (key word here) politely by the lady at the check-in desk if I wouldn’t mind getting on another flight several hours later. And in return, they would compensate me 400 euros (not airline credit…just cash). Without hesitation, I happily agreed.
So there is a right way and a wrong way to handle a situation like that.
Spirit Airlines maybe takes the cake for some of the worst customer service in the industry, with only one star (based on 236 reviews) on customeraffairs.com. One person even refers to the Spirit staff as “emotionless psychopaths with no souls.”
Let’s compare all of that to JetBlue. Ranked highest in customer satisfaction for low-cost airlines in North America 12 years in a row, it’s no secret that people love JetBlue. Here’s why.
They Create Memorable Experiences
JetBlue may be a low-cost airline, but that doesn’t meant they are cheap. In fact, they are just the opposite. With services like free luggage (at least with BluePlus tickets); cheap cancellation and change fees; in-flight entertainment and complimentary snacks and beverages, JetBlue loves to spoil their customers. It’s almost a surprise that they manage to keep their prices as low as they do. But it’s precisely because of the great customer experience they provide that they are able to do so. They invest in great things for their customers and in return, their customers stay happy and go back to them.
Personally, JetBlue is my favorite airline and one that I always look forward to flying. With Direct TV, free movies and Sirius XM radio, the choices of on-flight entertainment are almost overwhelming. I also remember that they serve delicious snacks like Blue Chips and PopCorners popcorn chips. I remember that the seats are leather and comfortable. Recently, they even introduced free high-speed Wifi and power outlets.
In short, just like Disney, JetBlue provides their customers with memorable experiences. It’s really pretty simple. They have found a way to do things that their competitors don’t (even Southwest Airlines, another airline famous for their customer service, doesn’t provide free Wifi), and in doing so, have become an airline that people (including myself) love to fly.
They Are Fun
I’m convinced that another reason people love JetBlue is because they are fun and lighthearted. They don’t take themselves too seriously as a brand and like to joke around with their customers a little.
Their social media voice reflects that lighthearted image. The third post currently on their Facebook page has a photo that reads “THE MOST BREW-TIFUL DAY OF THE YEAR. Happy National Coffee Day!” with a caption that reads, “We’d like to take a moment to thank coffee for always bean there for us.”
And take the time that they pulled a prank on people. They created an interactive storefront on the busy streets of New York City, with a hologram that displayed buttons with questions for JetBlue, next to a flight attendant who provided the answers. The person on the screen would speak to users directly, making them laugh, dance and even somehow enticing them to climb into the screen.
Users spent an average of 10 to 15 minutes interacting with the storefront and when they were done, the hologram woman emerged from the storefront and gave the lucky users free travel vouchers.
They Treat Customers as Individuals
It may seem basic, but so many airlines don’t even treat customers like human beings—they treat them as numbers, with strict and unbendable policies and procedures.
JetBlue doesn’t have one-size-fits-all policies and procedures; they take each individual into account when making decisions.
A man once tweeted to JetBlue asking why he was charged $50 for taking an earlier flight. A JetBlue employee responded to his Tweet within several minutes and then forwarded the interaction to the JetBlue staff at the airport the man was at. After studying the man’s Twitter profile picture, the airport staff then went to go find the Twitter user so they could follow-up with him in person.
This type of occurrence isn’t rare with JetBlue either. In another instance, one JetBlue customer jokingly tweeted that she expected a “welcome parade” at the gate when she arrived in Boston. What did JetBlue do? The person who responded to the Tweet informed the JetBlue staff at the Boston airport, and the staff took it upon themselves to literally greet the woman with a welcome parade, marching band music, handmade signs and all.
Part of what makes these interactions so powerful is that JetBlue takes their customers completely by surprise. Human beings love surprises, so it makes complete sense that this tactic works so well.
Of course, they can’t surprise each and every customer in those ways,, but they do take the time to read (and generally respond) to each and every Tweet that they get, with an average response time of just 10 minutes.
Part of the reason that they succeed so well in doing this is because of the excellent communication between employees. If a specific airport is mentioned in a Tweet, the JetBlue employees manning and responding to the Tweets will email the customer service representatives at that airport. Employees have a thread that allows them to pose questions, share information and tag other JetBlue employees. That way, problems can be resolved as soon as possible.
They Care About People More Than Profit
When customers are frustrated or in a dire situation, they want to be heard and cared for. JetBlue can’t always give the customers exactly what they want, but they hire friendly people who show that they care about their customers.
Before Hurricane Irma hit, JetBlue offered $99 flights out of South Florida, so that people could evacuate. Every other airline took advantage of the situation and drastically hiked up the prices; JetBlue was the one airline that kept its prices low and affordable for everyone.
JetBlue may not be the most profitable airline out there, but that’s because they put a premium on customer service above everything else. Their customers are number one and everything else is secondary.
That’s the mentality that every company should have.