#30 – Airlines, Difficult Customers, Customer Growth Indicator


Welcome to the 30th edition of my customer strategy newsletter. The four topics this week are:

  1. What is really happening to customer satisfaction with US airlines? (Not what you think)
  2. Latest blog posts
  3. Notable items from other sites
  4. Looking forward

What is really happening to customer satisfaction with US airlines?

Given the amount of negative attention about customer incidents on United, Delta and other airlines this year, there must be a serious problem, right? Customers must be angry with US airlines, right? Customer satisfaction must be going through the floor, right? Wrong!

Customer satisfaction with US-based airlines is the best it has ever been since it has been covered by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, meaning since 1994. So what gives? In reality, this is all to do with The law of small numbers. When data sets get very big, you can always find some small numbers that look very unattractive indeed. Let me give an example that is closer to home. Here in Geneva, about 7 million passengers went through the airport in 2000. This year the total will be about 16 million. The explanation is mainly a single airline: EasyJet, that decided to establish a major hub here when Swissair almost completely abandoned Geneva. EasyJet now carries over 40% of all passengers. My favorite Sunday newspaper (Le Matin) regularly carries stories about people getting stranded in Lyon when their flight was too late for the Geneva curfew, as well as stories affecting individual passengers. Always negative stories. No positive ones at all.

The point here is that when you carry 6 or 7 million passengers out of a single city, some people will have bad experiences. Since the airport has understandably struggled to keep up with passenger growth, there may be a few more of these experiences than in an airport with no capacity issues. Since the population of the Geneva urban area is just about 300,000, it is easier for the rare bad events to become known. Social media helps too.

I am not saying that United, Delta, EasyJet, or indeed any other airline is wonderful. I am just suggesting that individual incidents that are not handled well do not mean much. In the USA at least, most passengers seem to be happier than ever. Here is the ACSI results table. If a score is in green, it is the better of the 2016 and 2017 scores.


ACSI airlines

Our latest blog posts

Here are the latest posts. Older posts are still available on the blog page.

image Use emotion and ‘identifiable victims’ in customer experience reporting

No strategy is worthwhile and no project is worth doing if you cannot communicate it effectively. Once the communication is about how your customers and partners feel about your company, emotion enters into play…

image Net Promoter Open Question Analysis – Survey Results


Thanks to those who have taken the survey on analysis of open-ended questions. This article summarizes the results and hopefully provides a few insights. I was surprised at how manual it all is today.

image OK, You have given me a strategy development method… but what customer-centric strategies are actually possible?

The best strategy development method I have come across is one I learned from Willie Pietersen at his Columbia Executive Education course and is also described in his books. This Bain article complements it by suggesting there are just 30 possible customer ‘value drivers’ for consumer businesses. Choosing to be great at just a few is the secret of success.

Notable customer experience items from other sites

Inc. –  7 Powerful Ways to Deal With Difficult Customers

A Some good tips for dealing with “rude and demanding” customers. Personally, I think number two ‘Listen’ and number three ‘Apologize with empathy’ are the most important. See what you think. Read it here.

McKinsey -The Customer Growth Indicator: How to win the battle for initial consumer consideration

An interesting new article from McKinsey that includes some short video clips. At first I thought their contention that 70% of purchasing decisions depend on initial consideration was obvious and arbitrary. Then I read more and watched the videos. Some good insights relating to past customer experience in particular. Have a look here.


Looking forward

As mentioned last week, we decided to run some Amazon ads to see whether they have more effect on book sales than they cost. (We are happy with the sales even without advertising, but why not try?) I set up four campaigns earlier today. For anyone who is interested, my brother and I decided to use two books as our references and we are only about a third of the way through them at the moment. They are The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman, and Mastering Amazon Ads by Brian D. Weeks. Weeks is very scientific, and we are trying to follow his methodology precisely. I should be able to let you know how it is going about six to eight weeks from now.

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