Dear @QantasAirways, your brand simply missed out…

@QantasAirwaysI recently enjoyed a business trip to San Francisco arriving back this morning. The air travel got me thinking about what simple brand opportunities companies miss when their culture’s don’t support, allow or foster authentic engagement and connection with their most loyal customers.

Having just heard Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh speak at #IHRSA30 I found myself very attuned to customer experience and service which made our experience on Qantas all the more blog worthy – in my mind at least.

Here is my open letter to Qantas Airways asking them to consider a little Wobbly Jelly Theory when they consider the simple ingredients they can mix to create better customer experiences in future. 

Dear @QantasAirways,

I am on flight QF74 heading back to Sydney from San Francisco. I can’t help but notice, as was the case on the away over, your flight is only about 40% full. ‘Great for you’ I hear you say? Yeah, sure I had an exit row seat with no one next to me and that was comfortable but the whole thing left me wondering what significant brand loyalty opportunity you missed on these two flights.

Still I still cant believe you missed a great opportunity to cement my loyalty to flying Qantas at a time when unbeknown to you I have been wavering in my choice of carrier since experiencing another last year.

First let me tell you the missed opportunity and then let me hand it over to far smarter brand managers, marketers and travelers than I to add the substantive evidence to my simple opinion piece.

As I write this I am in seat 46H just behind premium economy. I am a Gold level frequent flyer with you and have been for some time. I travel to the US twice a year and domestically once every two weeks or thereabouts. Not huge miles but enough perhaps for you to realize I am a prime target for some brand love every now and again (particularly if you followed me on Twitter when I mentioned you like Virgin Blue did when I first mentioned them.)

I work for a not for profit organization and run a small consultancy. I would say that through both enterprises I can directly influence up to six figure spends on air travel in any given year. Again, perhaps not huge but it does cover about 15 other people as well who all have their own networks and individual spending habits which might be influenced through my decisions.

Premium economy is about 30% occupied. Not sure about business class as I am not allowed to walk up there. I have never flown Premium Economy and while I have toyed with the idea of using my FF points to upgrade to business it is so expensive to do so I choose to save my points so I can fly my wife back to NYC again sometime.

I am traveling with three colleagues. The Chairman and CEO of my organisation of which the former is a Bronze Frequent Flyer and the latter a Silver Frequent Flyer with Qantas.

Thanks to my Gold FF status we enjoyed check in through the Business Class counter and enjoyed the lounge arrangements with BA at SFO airport. So, no problems there and thanks for letting me bring my colleagues in with me as guests. It made the five hour airport wait almost enjoyable.

However now that I am on thee flight I firmly believe we have both missed a significant opportunity to score some serious brownie points and I am blaming you. It may appear I am simply trying to get myself an upgrade here but that is only a small part of the story and surely by the time you get to this paragraph you will be wishing you had done it differently (but perhaps not?)

Had your staff been empowered with a Zappos.com style of culture they may have seen at check in how few people were flying, looked up all the Gold and above FF members were on board and worked out how many Business & Premium Economy class seats were still available.

Then they would have politely called us up to the check in desk in the lounge while we waited, in order of those with the highest status for the longest time and have never flown in either of the upgraded classes before. In my dream of course I would have been one of them offered an upgrade.

Unfortunately you chose to fly with a more than half empty Premium Economy cabin in plain sight from our seats instead.

Had I received the offer of an upgrade I would then have been able to offer the upgrade to my CEO and also pleaded that you upgrade our Chairman as well. As you can see this would have been very pleasing to them and to me as I withdrew from the offer in their favour and hoped they remembered this at performance review time.

I did not get this opportunity to score those significant brownie points as you chose to fly with a more than half empty Premium Economy cabin. I don’t get it. The seats are all we are after. If you say you can’t move people because you didn’t cater for more Premium or Business Customers, just ask us and you will find that we are happy with whatever food is available just to be given the chance to experience the next level of seating especially on a 14 hour flight.

So now, I simply wonder why such highly effective, very low cost opportunities to make brand ambassadors out of your own already pretty loyal customers, goes begging?

There were plenty of families, other well dressed business people on the plane equally if not more qualified to get some love from you and who knows who you would have impressed and what effect that would have if you were just able to see the wood for the trees.

When this sort of thing does happen I do remember it when I go to book flights again to the US or fly my team around Australia.

And I do blog about the experience and tweet it to people I know like to share to this sort of thing.  and will also (I hope) comment on this post so I can understand more about why you would let this opportunity pass you by.

See you when I see you I guess.

Regards,

Rob, Frequent Flyer 3734483

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Dear @QantasAirways, your brand simply missed out…

  1. JT

    I can empathise with you Rob, as this has happened to me previously. As a loyal customer you sit frustrated seeing empty seats when you know you could be sitting there but for whatever ‘protocol’ reason you are not.

    I have to defend Qantas as more recently Qantas have always been very receptive to my request for upgrades. I have really appreciated what they have done & as you would know, I have tweeted such positiveness! I guess I have become a brand evangelist for them.

    But I can understand your disappointment but more importantly what opportunity they missed to secure not only your loyalty but your colleagues – maybe even getting you a pay rise too! As you say, by using the Zappos culture within their company, Qantas could now have 3 raving fans.

    Again, in their defense or to their detriment their software and loyalty system does allow what you are requesting at check in – I am sure, based on my experience.

    When Qantas launched Premium Economy, I was on a flight back from the US and they upgraded me with no points so I could try premium economy. It was what Tom Hopkins calls the ‘Puppy Dog close’ – once you experience you can never go back. And it worked!

    I raved to my friends and network, which is as extensive as yours, about how great Premium Economy was for me & that they should try it. Their strategy worked!

    I do think as the competition increases, Qantas and their competitors, will need to improve their pro-active customer service. In deed, as Tony Hseih from Zappos.com so clearly articulated, they are NOT in the business of selling shoes or call centres. They are in the business of customer service.

    Maybe you could Qantas a copy of Moments of Magic by Jan Carlzon. While 20+ years old, the concept has not changed. I had a moment of magic when I checked in for QF74 and you had a moment of misery.

    JT FF # 0439298

  2. Dang. Saw this link via @Justin Tamsett and feel for you. A 14 hour flight in such close range to nicer EMPTY seats would have made me chew through my carry-on strap. I hope they follow and suck up properly to you! And maybe your CEO will read this post and love you even more! Group Hug!

  3. Thanks to you both for your comments. You know, it wasn’t even a moment of misery that motivated me to write the post. I like QANTAS planes, I liked the great aisle/exit row seats my CEO and I were in.
    What I realised was that there was a significant opportunity to turn loyal customers into raving fans sitting there in front of us and they missed it either because they simply don’t do this sort of thing OR they don’t care – we paid for economy so we fly economy.
    Two people have said maybe they can’t move people because they are not staffed to cope with people in other parts of the cabin. My response was; we are not adding to the total number of customers on board; and, if catering is an issue in the higher class cabins, then simply ask us. Ask me if I would like an upgrade as long as I am comfortable with my normal menu I say hell yeah and thanks heaps for the comfy seat.
    Another idea: why not see how many upgrade seats are available before each international flight and then offer them via Twitter to the first followers who check-in via Foursquare to a QClub or Partner Lounge?
    Anyways, I still have had no response at all from them despite them RTing and Mentioning others on Twitter and even running Tweets asking for feeedback under the #itsthebusiness hashtag.