How easily CX can switch from positive to negative on avoidable things

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Having just spent an enjoyable few hours participating in a conference in London about customer engagement, I commenced my journey home to Edinburgh upbeat from the stories shared during the course of the day and in anticipation of my daughters 18th birthday party that evening.
It was what happened next – after my arrival at Gatwick Airport – that illustrated how customer experience can pivot negatively on simple and very avoidable little things.
Having arrived a little late at the airport I negotiated my way through security to see my flight was ‘Boarding’. Now the modern (or overly developed) airport is not a logistically well designed place so I charged the 10 miles (exaggerating for affect) to the gate to see my fellow passengers queueing to board. ‘Whew’ I thought. ‘Made it!’ – despite the time being 2.58pm and the boarding gate due to close at 2.50pm and the easyJet  app stating that the  flight was on time.
Pleased with myself for ‘making it’ and delighted with easyJet for being on time (when I really needed them to be), all that was left for me to do was to relax and treat myself to a drink on board. All in all, a good day.
However, what happened next, changed all that.
Just a few minutes later, just after 3pm, easyJet announced that the flight was to be delayed.  The reason given was that the crew who would take us to Edinburgh hadn’t arrived at the airport – a fact that would certainly have been known well before this point.
Now maybe I’m a grumpy Scot who now knew he was going to be late for his daughter’s 18thbirthday party, but I would have dealt with this news much easier if easyJet had told me via the app, text or verbally by their ground staff that the flight was going to be delayed, when they knew it would be.
It was aggravating enough without then being held when we’d boarded with the engine off elsewhere at Gatwick (apparently it was too busy in the airspace near Edinburgh). But I eventually made it home, the party was great fun and as I’m writing this I have a little bit of a sore head (if you get my drift).

So what’s the lesson…?

Travel can be an exciting but also a stressful experience. Travel companies like easyJet  need to think more holistically about customer experience to avoid simple, avoidable things changing the experience from a positive (or at least, understandable) one to a negative or unacceptable one. In this experience I found the easyJet crew to be a pleasure, as I often do with those that look after us on flights. So it’s a shame that their efforts get lost against things that frankly should be relatively simple to get right. The captain/first officer does not need to be overly optimistic about time/travel, and can refrain from telling us they’ll put their foot down to make up time if they can’t, and for goodness sake don’t say “Cabin Crew 10 minutes to land” when the reality is that we’ll still be circling the airport airspace in 20!
Now I know that the airlines don’t control all of the moments of truth when we travel with them, and are at the mercy of non-accountable parties like those that run the airport and the logistics suppliers who support them, but it’s high time they thought differently and took more responsibility for the areas they can control that affect their customers’ experiences.
I’ve worked with a number of airlines and understand the challenges they face, and I’d take a guess that easyJet does think about the customer. What I’d bet on, however, is that their efforts are fragmented and the vision and leadership to make them a brand that I’d choose first time, is lacking.
So, will I book with easyJet again? Well probably, as they can sometimes be the only option, but they won’t be the first place I look until they demonstrate that everything they do is for customers and that in those moments of truth, they manage expectations and are proactive when things go wrong. That does mean they will get less from me over time and that my impression of them is now quite avoidably tarnished to the point that I’m sharing this negative experience with others.
One final point to make on the experience is that I shared my view with easyJet via Twitter as the events started to unfold, yet they didn’t respond. Whether this is a result of inappropriate tools, poor use of their own data, a lack of adequate staff resources to manage the volume of replies or the inability to see end to end customer journeys, they missed another chance to simply acknowledge my frustration and salvage the experience with them. All of this illustrates an example of a business that could use some help when it comes to knowing how to engage with its customers.
Give us a ring or tweet us, easyJet, – we’d be very happy to help you return to the ‘easy-to-fly-with’ organisation that had once transformed the industry.