[Editor’s Note: I wrote this on my way home last night. I was on the plane and have since read the horror stories of JetBlue customers stranded on the runway for 10 hours]
My JetBlue flight was supposed to leave Oakland airport at 1:15. It didn’t. Didn’t leave at 2:15 or 3:15 either. When I finally took my seat at 4:30 all I could think about was how well JetBlue handled the situation (rather than how long I had been sitting on an airport carpet).
The things JetBlue and the staff did are a case study in how to make a customer feel special. In today’s market it’s no longer good enough to service your customer, you’ve got to go further. Here’s how they did it:
- Pilot comes out, apologizes to everyone and explains the situation. He then moves out from behind the counter and starts answering questions. When someone asked him about how much it would cost to switch his tickets he answered with personality, “you’ll need to ask those folks at the desk, they just pay me to fly the plane.” When someone asked him if he thought they would leave soon he gave an honest answer rather than trying to cover himself. He said he really believed that they would clear the tarmac at JFK in the next few hours and we would be able to depart. He could have said nothing, but he chose not to.
- They offer free flight changes for anyone who wants it. Again, the flight only left three hours late and this was something they didn’t have to do. Being given the choice made me feel more at ease about waiting to see what happened.
- Next they set up a table full of water, soda and JetBlue snacks. Again, this is not something they have to do, there are plenty of places to buy food in the terminal (who must be fairly annoyed about this tactic). Doing this makes people feel like JetBlue really cares and them and their comfort. When every other airline is cutting corners anywhere they can this feels almost luxurious.
- When we got on the place the flight attendant sounded genuinely excited to say we were ready to depart. She then proceeded to thank us for being so patient. Again, lots of people do this, but how often does it feel genuine?
- As an apology for leaving so late (something they had nothing to do with — JFK closed the runway for all traffic), the pay movies which are normally around $5 were free and the first round of alcoholic drinks were on the company.
All of this left me feeling like I was riding with a company that truly cared for its customer. Recently I had a long conversation with Ori and Tad and one of the things we talked a lot about was how you get evangelists to talk about your product. One of the conclusions we came to is that you make them feel special. Something as simple as a hand-written note or a phone call can be all the payment an evangelist needs. With a well-trained crew, JetBlue was able to recreate that special feeling of personal recognition. It’s pretty impressive stuff and something more companies need to strive for.
Before I finish, this whole thing reminds me of a story Drew told me about being on a plane with the CEO of JetBlue (as a sidenote, I think JetBlue’s behavior is exactly the kind of Marketing for Good that Drew writes about at his blog). Anyway, during Drew’s flight the CEO came on the loudspeaker and welcomed everyone. He then proceeded to walk down the cabin and speak to every person in the airplane. Drew was on his way to ski somewhere (as I remember the story) and told the CEO (whose name I can’t remember) that the last time he was there he broke his leg. On his way off the plane the CEO was waiting to say goodbye to each person. When Drew walked by not only did he remember his name, but told him to be a little more careful this time.
Clearly his attention to detail and the customer experience has trickled down.