Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Service Slashing: The Airline Industry

Schiphol Airport - KLM self service check-in
Originally uploaded by deef37

The airline industry has been receiving a large amount of negative press of late. Most of it has been because of service slashing. By now most have heard of the new charge for checked bags that many airlines are adopting. Many are now charging for the snacks, exit row seating, and other features that used to be free when flying. To a growing number of airlines, service has become a commodity that can be slashed. Anyone who has flown recently can see the focus is rarely on the customer.

Most are pointing to rising costs in fuel, security, and the changing face of the airline industry since 9/11 for these cuts in service. Not only are various perks being taken from passengers, but airline's staff are also being slashed. This results in long lines and an overworked staff that is almost naturally stressed and unfriendly.

It's understandable that some adjustments need to be made due to various factors. What isn't understandable is that customer service is on the losing end of these fixes. If the excuses provided by most struggling airlines for cutting service are justifiable (don't get me wrong, I believe some reasons are valid problems that require a solution), then how can the success of JetBlue be explained? Or Alaska Airlines? Or Air Canada? They are all operating in the same industry environment. Shouldn't they be slashing service too?

A recent study by the research group J.D. Power and Associates found that most passengers don't mind a rise in the cost of a ticket or even other added fees. Most passengers just want some service. What does this tell us? It tells us that if a company wants to raise it's prices, then offer great customer service. Provide perks. Offer rewards that are worthwhile to frequent fliers. Provide a work staff that is not only friendly and helpful, but large enough to handle the customer volume the company receives.

Why do JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, Air Canada and a small number of airlines continue to receive rave reviews from customers? It's simple, really. They aren't service slashing. They focus on their passengers. They provide them with the service they believe they deserve. And in the long run the customers reward them.

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