In this business, you need to delight your customers. In other words, do the opposite of what some airlines do. Last week I was in Toronto for a couple of days of meetings. I flew Porter Airlines out of Newark and enjoyed the easy access via security and landing in downtown Toronto. This airline literally lands you on a small island that is just a two-minute ferry ride from the business center of Toronto.
I was absolutely delighted with the entire process, from start to finish, on my flight to Toronto. I actually felt good about an airline for a change!
Then I showed up in Toronto for my return flight. I made it there a bit early and asked about going stand-by for a flight that was one hour before my scheduled departure. I was told that I needed to pay an extra $150 to take that earlier flight. I was booked on their “firm” travel fare, which required any changes to my flight schedule to incur that fee, something that is clearly noted in their fees page (for a copy, click on Porter Airlines Fees).
Even though there were plenty of open seats leaving on the 5 p.m. departure, I was stuck sitting for an hour in their lounge unless I paid that extra airline fee. The airline was quick to point out their fare structure and sent me the corresponding link when I tweeted my displeasure via (for a look at that, click on Murphy Travels). Did that make it better? No, not at all!
Indeed, what the airlines have forgotten is the most basic tenet of customer service: delight your customer! Some may argue that the rules are the rules, but I’ll beg to differ. In today’s world, you have few opportunities to make customers happy, especially if you’re an airline. Forcing me to pay an extra $150, on top of a $600 fare, to simply move a flight up an hour wasn’t Porter’s best moment. Let’s face it: The flight itself is only an hour long!
So instead of getting home an hour earlier on a flight that had open seats, I sat back and did some work in their lounge. Instead of sharing what a great experience they provided, I could only sit back and feel like I was getting squeezed for a few extra dollars. It wasn’t a good feeling and, to be frank, it changed my entire view of the travel experience to Toronto.
Instead of that great feeling I had the day before, I could only focus on the stupidity of having to sit in an airport lounge for that extra hour. I focused on arriving home at 9 p.m. instead of 8 p.m., and the extra hour I could have spent with my kids and wife. Should I have booked a different fare class and paid significantly more for the flexibility? Would I have felt differently if it wasn’t a difference of one hour, on a shuttle-like schedule, and had been a difference of eight or nine hours? Probably. Then it would have been easy to justify the extra $150 fee and the ability to save that many hours. But one hour? Sorry, but that just doesn’t make sense to me or most travelers.
In the world of social media, where anyone has the ability to speak their mind about you, your service or your business, it’s important to make sure you take the time and effort to delight your customer. The rules be damned!
Mark Murphy is president and CEO of travAlliancemedia, parent of TravelPulse.com, Agent@Home magazine, Vacation Agent magazine, Travel Agent Academy, Virtual Travel Events and Agent Studio.