EasyJet Customer Experience – A failure waiting to happen

As companies continue to inch (literally) ever closer toward greater and greater productivity, I can say that I was only mildly amused when the EasyJet flight attendant on a recent flight cajoled us into listening to the pre-flight safety announcements. As with most of us who travel a lot, we consider these announcements over the loud-speaker as an obligatory nuisance. On this particular EasyJet flight, I decided to put down what I was reading to listen. One specific part of the instructions caught my attention. Not that I am against productivity gains; nor am I against an airline wishing my safety. However, someone needs to revisit and update what must be a rather old script.

In case of emergency landing, take the customary “brace” position, by bending over, placing your head between your legs and tucking your arms around your thighs.

Not being of the circus contortionist variety, I can say that I am just about able to put my chest on my thighs, nothing more. Getting the head to tuck down neatly is a bit of a stretch. And, I am fortunate not to have a pot belly.

Brace for it

Here are the instructions as printed on the plastified sheet in front of each seat (in this case for an Airbus A319/320). Continue reading

When collaboration goes wrong – Why the power of your network is vital

In today’s connected world, we have had to learn to find ways to break down silos, to work in networks and to collaborate with others. I believe that the power of your network is keenly related to your ability to survive.  It is a key part of the so-called “web 2.0” world.  Most companies struggle with this because it requires two fundamental shifts:

  • getting internal teams to work together
  • listening to customers

I have long felt that you are as strong as your network, the people you know and the people with whom you are associated. In some countries such as Japan, China or Korea, in order to do business, companies typically need to create partnerships or joint ventures with local players, and it’s not always obvious with whom to partner.

The power of your network in the CLOUD

On my most recent trip to Australia, I flew to Melbourne via Guangzhou.  I am a frequent flyer on Air France, part of the SkyTeam alliance, and for the leg from Guangzhou to Melbourne, flew on China Southern Airlines (CZ – corrected 27 Sept 2013 thanks to Olivier’s comment!).  CZ is one of the 19 partner airlines of SkyTeam.  As such, I assumed that CZ would be of similar quality to AF.  It turns out, from what I understand, that CZ is the largest, but third best airline in China, and a far cry from the AF standards.  Granted, this is from an experience on just two flights (same route), but if CZ is a large organization, boasting the largest fleet and network of routes within China, it is not on par with Air France.  I note, meanwhile, that SkyTeam also has three other Chinese partners.

Skyteam brands, Minter Dialogue

INCONSISTENT MESSAGING

Aside from the fact that the “SkyTeam” pre-roll advertisement on the inflight entertainment directly contradicted my experience boarding (priority boarding was closer to a mass rugby scrum), there were some major disappointments in the level of service on board.  The staff was well meaning, but the caliber of service in business class was substantially weak.

QUALITY IN THE DETAILS

For starters (literally), the appetizer was a rather poor excuse for a starter.  I think the term would be closer to an unappetizer.   Presentation, quantity and choice were below standard.  See for yourself.

China Southern Air Appetizer, Minter Dialogue

THE IMPORTANCE OF WRITING

The menu was handed out before take-off.  The CZ process requires that I pre-order my meal before take-off.  The English language version featured a little storytelling.  Aside from the rather primitive story and incompatibility with the meal I was served, I noticed a couple of grammatical errors in the menu.  Can you find them?

China Southern Air menu, Minter Dialogue

I cannot reveal to you the discomfort of the Business Class seat (barely the equivalent of Economy Premium in Air France, with a 3-tier seat that provided an incline of under 120 degrees). It measured just 48cm in width.  Meanwhile, the inflight entertainment system was broken.  Symptomatic of the situation, the “remote” was rather beaten up (see below).  And the choice of films was reminiscent of TV in 1970s with a selection of around 15 English language movies.

Power of your network - China Southern Air Hand Remote, Minter Dialogue

The moral of the story

You are your network.  CZ is clearly pulling down the Sky Team partnership.  In a flat world, companies need a strong coalition to cover the four corners.  I wonder how Sky Team came to the conclusion that they should ink a deal with CZ.  Perhaps they underestimated the need to have partners, thinking that they were able to manage themselves.  Perhaps they were slow to recognize the legitimate interest in BRIC “third world” countries.  Perhaps they were too late to sign up the better alternatives?

China Southern Airline’s motto is “Fly like the first time.”  Clearly, they have forgotten to cater to those who have flown before!  In their trailer, they gently wax: Whichever you trip you take, preparing is like child’s play, featuring kids running around in a backyard.  They even feature a gratuitous Labrador dog in their trailer.  All rather puzzling and unrelated to the business in which they are operating.

As part of the SkyTeam network, there are 520 member business class lounges around the world… I had no major quibbles about the CZ lounge in Guangzhou, but on my return leg, I had to make do with the AF side of the lounge and there were no quiet and/or comfortable seats.  I was disappointed that there was no access to the CZ side!  Here again for SkyTeam members, one expects consistency in quality throughout the network, otherwise, it degrades the value of belonging to the network.

Power of your network

In any event, the formation of Sky Team, is an excellent demonstration of how and why it is critical to choose the right partners and to form strong partnerships.

I know there are many horror stories in travel.  This was far from a horrible experience.  Here, I wanted to illustrate the power of your network, rather than just berate CZ.  The staff on board were indeed well intentioned (and I send a special wing tip to the Purser, Ms Lin, on my return journey).

Copa and Continental Airlines: Copa Copycat

Copa Airlines and Continental Airlines Logo
Notice any similarities?

Looking up at this message board at CDG airport the other day, I could not help but notice the similarity in the logos of Copa Airlines and Continental Airlines. Dating back to a 1998 strategic alliance between these two companies (about which I previously knew nothing), it would seem that one of the cost-savings that they considered was merging the marketing departments? If Copa is well known in Panama, however, it remains a rather minuscule player versus Continental. The question that comes to mind is how on earth they came up with the idea to “mirror” each other’s brand logos? The logos are so similar, enough to provoke confusion, yet by being different they create massive duplication. Another missed opportunity is on their websites: they have not synergised their website platforms either… curious no?

Continental Airlines Website Screen Save

Yes, the airline industry has other things to worry about (profitability, volume and customer satisfaction…), but it would seem the marketing department has been asleep in the cockpit here.

BA and Air France launch Social Media sites…

Air France Bluenity Social Media SiteThe battle of the travel space has moved to the social media space, at least in Europe. In November 2008, Air France/KLM launched its Bluenity social media site, joining the Thalyseo site for train travellers on continental Europe (between Marseille and Amsterdam).  Travellers on Air France/KLM can find out good addresses for their destination, connect with other flyers in their network, share cabs…  Its tagline is: Same place, same time.

In the same basic timeframe as Air France, British Airways beta launched  (Oct 2008) its Metrotwin site, Two Cities, One Place, an online community for people who fly BA’s most popular route between New York and London.  Whereas Bluenity is global in scope, Metrotwin is focused merely on London and New York.  It features recommendations of the best places to go in both cities; users can suggest a twin of each restaurant, attraction or neighbourhood in the other city.  The site also features the Metrotwin blog with a line-up of ten bloggers.

Britsh Airways Metrotwin Social Media Site

In a follow on act, BA launched another social site last month (February 17th) to promote the BA Great Britons programme, which offers 180 free flights each year to any person who wants to fly somewhere to develop their passion or talent. The public has the final say with an online vote.  The log-in authorisation to the site is through Facebook Connect in order to make registration easy.  If you want to apply, however, you had better hurry up as the application deadline ends in 6 days.

In any event, the Bluenity and Metrotwins sites have merits in their easy look & feel, but Metrotwin, with its design and home page, is substantially more inviting.  Unfortunately, with the cutbacks in travel, I don’t know just how successful these sites will be.  In any event, it is coincidental to see BA and AF launch their social media platforms: same idea, same time.  What do you think of these initiatives?  Quid the American airline companies?

Apple iPod Vending Machine at Airports around USA….

Apple iPod Kiosk at Airport
At Las Vegas McCarran Airport, I found this kiosk selling a number of Apple goods. It was a peculiar site, the logo atop being the little Apple of my eye, caught my attention. While Apple has seemingly established these vending machines in many airports (I have read about kiosks at JFK, DFW, Atlanta, SFO, Indianapolis…) and some train stations, this was the first time I had seen one up close. Apparently, these kiosks have been in place for a couple of years. As far as Apple shopping experiences go, aside from the large touchscreen interface, it is quite minimalist. The kiosk was more or less off the beaten path. A couple of the items were not available (cardboard replacements — which may have been to avoid having the item ‘drop’ into the bucket).

What would prompt a last-minute, self-service purchase of an iPod just before getting on board? Without access to music, there is no way to load the iPod easily for the flight. A really cool idea would be to have the iPod preloaded with the latest songs, no? That said, there were some useful accessories (i.e. earphones, plugs, adapters and the 22nd century MY.VU personal media player) that could lure the odd gambler’s winning purse.

As we all know, as loosy-goosy as their Job-less culture goes, Apple has a very strict policy of distribution. I wonder how the corporate decision making process went to put this in place. I would be curious to see what is the ROI on such a salesperson-less outlet?

No smoking ban enforced on planes — why the ashtrays?

Airline Toilet DoorDo you know that there has been ‘no smoking’ policy on airlines since the mid 1990s*? How can you possibly not know that? Then, the question I have is: why do airline companies — and their suppliers Boeing and Airbus, in particular — continue to produce doors for the toilets with embedded ashtrays? Having taken to the airs first, no smoking is now terrestrial in many places in most developed countries. Mindsets are changing. Habits are evolving (if not decreasing unfortunately, in the case of smoking). Airplane constructions have changed in many ways — with so many companies ardently looking at ways to reduce weight and costs. How is it, then, they still waste resources and money on these archaic ashtrays which now become the favoured repository for used chewing gum and other bits and pieces? Even the flight attendants on a recent Virgin Atlantic flight were hard pressed to come up with a sensible answer (**see below for someone else’s more elaborate response). Having checked on my three latest flights (two Boeing 747 and one Airbus 777) and seen this extraneous appendage 3/3 times, I will now need to cross-check with some brand spanking new planes to see if the folly persists. Anyone seen anything different? On your next flight, check it out and report back please!Airline Toilet Door Ashtray


As usual, I found that somebody else was on the case ahead of me. No harm! See here at Good Experience.

Surely, no smoking means no ashtrays needed, don’t you agree?

*The first ban in the US on flights 2 hours or less was April 1998; that was a year after Canada I might add. Coverage of the first US ban can be found here on the NY Times. It seems that, as of 2003 per A.S.H., meanwhile, only 91% of all flights to/from the US have a smoking ban. Does that include non commercial flights and freight? In any event, I personally have not been on a flight that allows smoking for over a decade.


**You can also find a good meme here on www.airliners.net. And I have copy/pasted a comment that I thought was quite fun by hungupanddrive:


“What’s broken is the attendant’s response.
The reasons that ashtrays still exist on planes are:
1. Cheaper to install, then re-tool the assembly line
2. Not all planes are manufactured for the airlines. There is such a thing as a privately or corporate owned airbus A321
3. Smoking is not banned everywhere in the world, but planes are sold everywhere.
What I find broken on planes is the razor blade disposal in the lav. When is the last time anyone used a safety razor for shaving? And, if they did, what are the odds they would be doing it in a moving airplane?”

Guam – A family visit and things to do on Guam island

Pacific War Museum in GuamWe visited Guam to celebrate this past Christmas with my sister and her family, along with my mother who flew in all the way from Florida. Notwithstanding the jetlag and length of the journey (it felt like half way around the world, Guam to Paris is 13,316 kilometres or 8,274 miles)*, we had a lovely visit to Guam, albeit I would say that it is difficult to justify as regular tourists since we enjoy neither hiking nor scuba diving. The other alternative is to go there on your honeymoon as witnessed by the large number of romantic Japanese couples.

On the tourism front, we hit the newly minted Pacific War Museum (near the US Navy Hospital), complete with artefacts from the Japanese soldiers who had lived in isolation in the forests continuing to believe that the war had not ended; a most resourceful survivor, Major Shoichi Yokoi, only surrendered in 1972, while a couple of stragglers held out until 1962. And if the subject of Japanese holdouts interests you, I found this chronology of other situations rather fascinating (if certainly not complete and unsure of all the facts). More here about the longest holdout, Hiroo Onoda, who surrendered in 1974 in the Philippines. We did some snorkelling in shallow waters off the Guam Hilton Hotel — which is a very good Guamanian address — and saw scores of tropical fish. There was enough to explore to get our backs scorched by the sun in short order. The ordering out of food at the local “gourmet” Indian restaurant gave us a good insight into Guamanian service and sense of ‘island’ time. After placing an order by phone, we arrived ‘as requested’ 30 minutes later, at which point, we were informed that our order would only be ready in another 15 minutes. We waited at the bar. It was 10 minutes before we realized that the ordered drinks would not be coming. Going to pay, we waited a further ten minutes before seeing that a box to the side was sitting placidly, cooling off. We finally reappeared at home with the family, aside from being well past hungry, wondering what happened to us. Dinner at Firefly, 138 Martyr Street in Agana (+1 671-688-4145), hosted by the welcoming Randy Reyes, was a good address. However, don’t forget to come with extra jumpers for greater comfort (massive air conditioning).

Got in some cracking tennis with some members of the Guam national team (thanks to Lisa Miller for setting that up) including the #1 ranked Justin Dugan, Bill and Wendell.

Nuclear Submarine Docked in GuamOur highlight “tourist” activity was getting a first class visit of the USS Frank Cable, a submarine tender, courtesy of LCDR Dr. Rod Hagerman, the senior medical officer on the ship. Parked off its stern were two submarines (photo), while a third sub was across the inlet. The tour from the Docs (not at the docks) was very memorable for all the family. And, while we were some seven decks up, we witnessed some tuna fishing, whereby for some 3-4 minutes, a tuna hunted a smaller (2 foot) fish, zipping in and out of the water, at the ship’s water line. Better than any waterpark attraction.

* The earth’s circumference is 40,075.02 KM or 24,901.5 miles at the Equator, so to be fair, we travelled just 1/3 of the world’s circumference.

Airline Advertisements – Who Can Afford to Experience Luxury Service?

Airline Ads — the good, the bad and the luxury

In these trying economic times, one of the industries that will inevitably be hit hard (again), will be the airline industry. Whether for personal or business travel, there is likely to be a good amount of seat-belt tightening. Some wise folk would say that NOW is a good time for the companies [that can afford it], to invest in attracting new business. In this vein, I took a look at some of the print advertising messages by airline companies around the world. While I certainly can’t say that I did a definitive and comprehensive search of all the ad creatives, I did find that there were certain patterns. When I take the NORTH AMERICAN companies, for example, it seems to me that the companies are communicating less about the experience in the plane and more about the “dream” of travel and the number of destinations serviced. In the creatives here (which I believe may be a bit dated) American Airlines (left) puts forward that it flies six times a day from NYC to London “via cloud nine.” A second American Airlines ad (right) presents the benefits of staring out the window. Implicitly, they are asking you not to look at the quality of service inside the plane, no?

More current, American’s billboard ad above is another curious statement. What are they selling? They are proposing planes that know how to land in water? Not going to rock my boat, if you see what I mean. The creative concept here is to show that you can have wifi internet access in flight. Dubious item to search if you are trying to encourage people to fly. To the right, you see Delta pushing its inflight entertainment (curiously promoting playing its Texas Hold’em game against fellow passengers). I would be remiss not to include Southwest, a true lovemark, which is proud of its advertising (historical creatives posted on its own site). But, even Southwest, in this output (left), is discussing the technology equipment (and while we haven’t heard the last about inflight telephone conversations), we are again not truly onboard.
And then Air Canada (left), is encouraging pedestrians to consider flying with its “People Working Above” humour. Again, not much content in the way of in-cabin service. Had they picked snow-packed scenery (there is a BIT) and miserably cold people, then the concept might have been to incite people to fly away to warmer climates? Bottom line, the North American companies seemed to be more prone to communicate about the concept of flying, rather than the experience itself. 
And as a sign off on the North American situation, the next step is to focus on on-board advertising to its passengers…as a way to gain extra revenue (see here in a USA Today article earlier this month).

EUROPEAN COMPANIES – THE “JE NE SAIS QUOI…”

After the North American ads, I took a look at the European companies. Mainland companies were not as “out of the cabin” as the American companies. Air France‘s creative (left) has been running for quite a while. It’s a nice image, but it leaves me wondering about the reality in the cabin. And their competition up north, Brussels Airlines (formerly Sabena), had decidedly the same creative air (below). Something about water as being part of the flying experience? The need to sit on a wooden board? I, for one, am absolutely horrible at sitting on the ground. Interestingly, both ad creatives use women.

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England‘s two primary airlines, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, have somewhat different approaches. Virgin allows for cheeky claims as well as innovative service concepts. On the left, you have an ad (9 inches) targetted presumably toward the female customer yet again. On the right, Virgin is going at the pre-flight experience with the offer of the limousine and a fast track check-in into the Virgin lounge. “Fastly Superior” and a cut above in terms of service proposition. Whether it is 9 inches of pleasure or the limo-to-lounge service, there is little humanity in this offer.

Moving to Virgin’s compeition, British Airlines is communicating in this creative on the onboard experience. Again, the focus is on the “mechanical” or physical benefits on board. With a cute creative (using the windows as eyes), the ad speaks to the ability to get a real night’s sleep in the plane (all good when you are flying overnight or on very long haul flights). Of course, in this creative by BA, you have to understand that you did not fly BA in your last flight. I have snuck in an Aeroflot creative just to say that they are more in the North American category…not much to sell onboard, unless you like the idea of doing wheelies and 360s. European companies are in for tough times, just as much as in the US, with lots of short flights, expensive personnel and intense competition (and regulation). Recently, European legislators have decided to go after the European companies for improper pricing advertising. Read here for the June 2008 article from the BBC.

ASIAN AIRLINE CLASS
Finally, moving to Asia. There are many examples that reinforce the notion that the battle is actually for in-cabin comfort and service. Here, we see much more of the human element. For example, Cathay Pacific (below) is not afraid to personalize the experience.

An Air India execution (below), in broad daylight, with the same romantic couple concept.

And the king of inflight, luxurious and personalized service, Singapore Airlines, in a veritable world of its own… Here’s the suite landing execution:

So, in summary, the Good (European) tend to be in the imaginary. The Bad (North American) largely ignore the onboard travails. And the Luxury (Asian) are vying for top dibs in terms of the personal and personalized onboard experience. In these difficult economic times, you have to wonder which airline companies are going to survive. Aside from ensuring that the fleet is uptodate and safe, are companies going to be cutting back on the little luxuries or, to the contrary, investing in the details?

[And then, if you are interested, there are the airline company slogans. I found this site (textart) from Russia, that regroups all the slogans for a host of industries. Here, Airline Industry Slogans it is just for the airline industry. A useful resource for us marketeers (although I can’t vouch for how up to date it is)]
If you enjoyed this article or take issue, do let me know!