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Will you allow your customers to trash your brand?

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Let’s face it. The customer is not always right. And persisting in this belief can have consequences. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for a customer is to gently and politely tell them, “No.” 

Airbus, one of the world’s largest jet manufacturers, is pushing back on the airline industry trend towards smaller seats. It used to be that nine-across seats were standard, and many airlines are moving to 10-across and thinner seats with less padding. Of course, the airlines are all about saving weight and adding more paying passengers to each flight. Last year nearly 70% of Boeing’s 777 planes had an extra seat squeezed into each row. But, this latest push to narrow the seat size from between 18-19” to 16.7” wide has caused a backlash amongst travelers.

Some claim that a "coffin has more shoulder room," or that "airlines might as well do away with seats altogether and use straps like on the subway." Travelers are complaining to the airlines and are even taking out their frustrations on Airbus and Boeing. Airbus, to its credit, is doing consumer research of its own and is advocating a minimum width of 18" as it improves passenger sleep quality by 53% over 17" wide seats (and I would expect 100% over 16" wide!). 

In a related vein, a financial services company manages the flexible spending accounts for a number of big employers. Yet each employer sets the standards on how strict to be in examining the employee expenses submitted for reimbursement. Some restrictions are very severe, causing a significant but misplaced customer backlash against this financial services company that might be spilling over and damaging its consumer brand.

You work very hard to build and protect your brand. You work hard to create a great customer experience. Why would you let your customers ruin the brand and experience for the consumers?

The most effective customer executives and brand marketers take ownership of their brand and customer experience all the way through the value chain to the end consumers. Even though it may not be popular (as in the case of Airbus) consider defining minimum service and experience standards. Demonstrate wherever possible the longer-term benefits of customer loyalty and engagement over short-term profits. Or perhaps you can show your distribution channels how to deliver even greater value that far outweighs cost cutting; for example, by putting in power outlets in each row, as Alaska Airlines is doing. Personally, I’ll pay a lot extra for standard seats AND power for all my devices, especially now that the FAA has allowed all devices to remain on throughout the flight!

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Categories: Chief Customer Officer | Customer Centricity | Customer Insight

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