Why isn’t satisfying customers enough?

This week I had an unplanned trip to Boston to fill in at the Boston FCP User Group meeting for Rich Harrington who’d suffered a back problem and wasn’t able to travel. I travelled American Airlines instead of my normal choice, JetBlue.

That led me to thinking about marketing because of the differences between the two airlines. Let me say up front there was nothing wrong with American. The flight was on time, the crew were ok, the inflight entertainment is a decade out of date (technically and from a marketing perspective) but generally they didn’t do anything wrong.

And yet, I found the whole experience lacking compared with JetBlue. Why I asked myself, and what can I learn from it.

American Airlines is an “old” airline with a long history and tradition, and a lot of old aircraft. JetBlue has outfitted most of its aircraft in the last decade or so, to a uniformly high standard. On JetBlue we get leather instead of 70’s design cloth seats.

Does this look like an airline that values its customer experience?
Does this look like an airline that cares about customer experience?

And that’s part of the problem. The cabin was not modern. In fact, it wasn’t well maintaned at all. Seat back pockets were falling off and falling against passengers’ knees. Not one of the six in-cablin screens that I could see were remotely watchable: five of six screens had black levels around IRE 40, one around IRE 20; two had severe magenta shifts and one a blue shift. And so on.

This can’t be a pleasant work environment and, while pleasant enough, there’s a whole different vibe between the cabin crew on American Airlines and the cabin crew on JetBlue. (There was nothing that I felt worth commending anyone on, whereas I’ve had occasion with JetBlue to send in multiple commendations for above-and-beyond service.)

You see, the bottom line is that American only cares about the bottom line. $25 to check the first bag, $35 for the next! Checked baggage makes more available space for in-cabin baggage and you’d think they’d encourage it. (Here’s a tip. Don’t check your bag unless it cannot fit in in-cabin storage. Take it with you. If there’s not enough space, they’ll gate-check it for you for free, and the gate check is ready when you exit the aircraft unlike the long wait for checked baggage. Just from observation on two flights this week.)

JetBlue think about the whole experience. Just take the in-flight entertainment, for example. On a six hour American Airlines flight we got one movie on the small, ceiling mounted in-cabin CRTs with the affor-mentioned problems, and one NBCU “package” with one TV show and a bunch of short excerpts running about 90 minutes. The other three hours there was no visual entertainment. There were a few audio channels. The movie started more than an hour after leaving the gate. On JetBlue you have a choice of 40 channels of JetBlue on your own seat-back screen, which fills a whole lot more of your field of view than a distant 14″ CRT.  Or your choice of interactive games. Or the whole set of XM Satellite Radio stations. In other words, JetBlue cares about keeping the customers occupied during the flight, with personal choice. An occupied customer is more likely to be  a happy customer.

So if American’s focus is their bottom line, JetBlue’s focus seems to be the customer experience and running an efficient modern fleet makes that easier. But beyond that it’s about how every interaction between customer and company forming the marketing.

When I see a badly maintained cabin, I worry about the rest of the maintenance on the aircraft and wonder if it’s safe to fly with that airline. Logically that doesn’t make sense because there are legally mandated safety standards for the aircraft but none for the cabin, that’s just “marketing”. But people are not logical about things like this. Marketing is always to the emotion not logic.

My takeaway is that it’s no longer enough to just satisfy the customer. I was satisfied with my flights this week, but disappointed because I’ve become used to being “delighted”. Satisfying the customer is no longer enough. You must delight them.

That applies equally to every business transaction that we do; every interaction every single person in a company has with their customers. For example, no-one in any company I control, or in my family will ever fly United Airlines again because of one in-cabin personnel’s totally illegal and out-of-proportion response to my complaint that the light did not light anywhere near the actual seat, like it was supposed to. Her response was to tell me be quiet or I’d be arrested on landing. Totally out of proportion and I would say illegal. I didn’t tell United because a simple Internet search showed that they didn’t care about any customer response. I just withdrew my business. That’s going to cost United $15,000 in the next five years as my mother flies the Pacific twice a year to come visit. She now loves VAustralia.

Marketing is every interaction by every person in your company with every customer.

Optimization Tips for Google TV

Optimization Tips for Google TV http://bit.ly/alUtTf

Since there are currently no available Google TV devices, this advice is somewhat premature, but you might as well file it away for the day you’ll need it.

Personally I’m not sure about where Google TV fits with Apple TV: nerds vs normals?

My friend Carey Dissmore commented on Twitter today:

AppleTV represents a ‘new model only’ (internet+local content streaming), Google TV attempts to skin old tech. That old tech being traditional cable and satellite. It’s middleware to bring legacy tech together.

Independent Film’s Path To A Viable New Business Model

Independent Film’s Path To A Viable New Business Model http://bit.ly/d6CMtj

A longish, but great take on where we are now in independent distribution. Covers topics:

  • The Landscape
  • Where we stand
  • What’s ahead
  • The New Ground Rules

On licensing in the new ground rules, he’s a realist:

On licensing, if anyone can get your film for free, the only sensible licensing scheme is to distribute with no restrictions on copying and reuse. I realize this rubs some people the wrong way (it used to rub me the wrong way), but in the new era, attempting to enforce all-rights-reserved copyright is a business disadvantage for anyone without a team of lawyers. With no feasible technical approach to stop reproduction and sharing, the only option is to attack legally. That takes lawyers and they are not cheap. Which approach is cost efficient – a market with profits that depend on copyright enforcement via legal channels or the venue that makes money despite unrestricted distribution? If you want to understand the future for copyright licensing, Lawrence Lessig is required reading. He lays it out far better than I ever could, plus his work is of the rare sort that is equally genius, entertaining, and inspiring. Specifically, hit up Remix and Free Culture – pretty sure a couple chapters will convince most anyone. You can buy the books or (Lessig puts his money where is mouth is) download them legally for free here and here.

HTML5 not ready for prime time says W3

HTML5 not ready for prime time, says W3: http://bit.ly/blTwrj.

The World Wide Web Consortium, the body that regulates and publishes the specifications of the HTML standard, is warning web content producers that the HTML5 is “not yet ready for production” and that the W3C will likely make further significant changes to the specification to increase interoperability. Philippe Le Hegaret, interaction domain leader responsible for the HTML and SVG spec, added that they expect it to be feature-complete in mid-2011.

This hasn’t stopped a lot of people already making the move to HTML5 where it makes sense as a Flash (or Silverlight) replacement.

In the meantime where there’s a showcase of  “15 Excellent HTML5 Techniques and demonstrations