You’ve probably heard, or thought it all before. No one reads these things, so why bother filling out that pesky airline survey that zaps into my inbox after a flight? It’s not like anyone cares…
That’s the main feeling travellers, and let’s be honest, probably you too – have towards airline “how did we do” surveys, and I’m here to tell you that-that’s the wrong idea. Completely. Well, now it is. At least, at one airline.
How would you feel if you boarded a flight home after a bad outbound experience, and seemingly out of nowhere, a member of the cabin crew addressed you by name, apologised for the specific incident or grievance from your outbound flight – even though they personally weren’t on it – and did a little something nice to make up for it?
Most airlines use “net promoter score” (NPS), or “voice of customer” (VOC) tools to measure how they’re doing, but with most airlines and industries, that means nothing more than a pat on the back for well heeled executives at the end of the month, for not letting things go to the wolves, and in all honesty, absolutely nothing for you.
Virgin Atlantic is changing that, and if their initial success is any indicator, other airlines will be jumping on board like Backstreet Boys fans at the turn of the millennium. A new tech based customer service system deployed by Virgin Atlantic takes those pesky “how did we do” surveys and helps facilitate personal contact with passengers within 24 hours, not to mention a few little somewhat mind blowing tricks along the way, if things were below a certain standard – or wildly exceeded them.
“The goal is ultimately for you to have great memories, drive loyalty and when you’re ready, come back to us.”
Virgin now operates a customer survey system that ensures that 100% of people leaving feedback below a certain score – we could tell you which, but then we’d have to kill you – will be contacted within 24 hours by phone, email or both. And no, not one of those generic “thanks for the feedback” emails, but a personalised, issue specific email aimed at turning a detractor into a fan.
The 100% means everyone, not just frequent flyers or commercially important passengers with blue tick boxes next to their Twitter or Instagram accounts.
The airline wants to win people back before the end of their “end to end” customer journey, if things go array, whatever the reason may be. Speaking to Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss in Tel Aviv, during the launch of their new route, it was ultra-HD clear that this new “closed loop” system of making travel personal and winning people over every time, not just some of the time – is everything.
“We don’t benchmark against other airlines, but against best in class companies in customer service, where our customers spend time and engage. We launched a new survey this year, on a new technology backbone, which is best in class by any industry, and by far best in class across the airline industry”– Daniel Kerzner, VP Customer, Virgin Atlantic
Oh, and hot tip within that survey… you’ll want to fill out the form before you fly back home.
If your journey hasn’t yet been completed, customer data from your outbound flight is automatically fed to the fully connected crew iPads used on your flight home, with a note to look after you. This is all discussed and briefed during a pre-flight meeting, to make sure the entire crew is ready to make the ordinary into something extraordinary, or at the very least, memorable in a good way.
Whether that win back entails a better seat, glass of champagne or just a “we’re sorry, and we’re here to help” will depend on a variety of factors, but just about anything is possible. If you, like me, just often wish that someone cared – it’s really just nice to be heard. I don’t need gifts, ceremony or gestures, but a sincere apology actually addressing the issue is priceless.
Crucially, Virgin Atlantic has created customer journey teams to look beyond the immediate issue, to find root causes of any dissatisfaction and take steps to improve. Breaking the data down further, root causes can be weeded out like any Hollywood plot, where themes become identifiable and efforts can then be undertaken to address issues from the source.
The only thing worse than someone having a sh*t flight, is someone else having a sh*t flight for the same reason.
Of course, the system will offer fail safes to guard against frequent abuse, and really, anyone who falsely files a complaint in hopes of getting something out of nothing has a special place reserved in hell. Historically speaking, it’s always been hard enough to get issues resolved without people faking issues in hopes of bagging an upgrade, so don’t be a contributing factor to that!
But if something does actually happen to you, it’s cool to know that those days of no one reading are over, for good, and that there’s an entire team of people aiming to turn your sub par experience into one where Virgin Atlantic becomes your most loved airline…