After a long week last week with early starts and travel to 3 cities, I was looking forward to flying home Friday night after a full day of training on the Gold Coast. I lined up to board the JetStar Flight home and they weighed everyone’s bag which of course made them very popular.
I travel light as I really do not like having to wait around, particularly at Melbourne Airport which is notoriously slow at the best of times and if there is a drop of rain you can wait for ages. I average over 200 flights a year and in all the years of flying have I been advised that my cabin baggage was too big or too heavy. Both times with JetStar. The first time I had a new bag and it did not fit the metal gauge on my trip home from the Sunshine Coast and so it was taken off me and put under the plane. There was no fee but annoying and so I gave the bag away.
This time, I was few kilos over and could not work out why until I realised that I had been given a gift for my new granddaughter by an old friend and a new file to review by a broker. This time, it was $50 plus the inconvenience of having to wait for the bag on arrival into Melbourne. The bag had a Platinum Frequent flyer tag for both Qantas and Virgin but none of this mattered. There was a process and collecting extra fares was all that it was about. If they had put a note on the boarding pass they SMSed me after I self checked in to save them money or had a sign before I went through security advising that bags would be weighed, I could have had alternatives such as having the colleague post down the file and or collect it next week when I am up and will not be carrying as much. As it was only sprung on us at the last second and with no alternatives, I for one felt cheated.
What any business needs to consider is not just the immediate effect of the decision but what ramifications does it have long term. In my case, I have to fly to the Gold Coast again this coming Thursday to deliver a paper at the AFMA/IAAA Conference and have instructed my PA not to fly me JetStar then or anytime in the future. I simply do not want the hassle.
My company is having its annual conference in March and we will be flying people in from all over Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. We would like to have as many there as possible so cost is naturally a deciding factor. However, again I have instructed that JetStar are not to be used as I do not want my team to be inconvenienced like this either and risk damaging the positive experience that I want to come out of our conference.
Finally, thousands of people will read this blog from 79 countries as I reported only last week and if any of them are travelling they will be wary of only carrying 7kg of hand luggage and perhaps fly another airline. If even 5% of those that were inconvenienced by all this nonsense make a similar decision next time they fly what is the true benefit of the blitz?
I also question the damage it does to their partner /owner airline Qantas. JetStar try and piggy back on the reputation of Qantas but what do they do in return other than disappoint Qantas’s most regular flyers. How much does JetStar, the Gold Coast City Council and Qantas have to spend on advertising to attract new customers to those that have been disappointed by poor service and a feeling of being ripped off.
At the other end of the scale, I went to buy a mirror for a bathroom renovation for our Melbourne office on Sunday. I went to a place called Mirror Mirror on the advice of a local shop who did not have what I was looking for. The place had a huge range and I found exactly what I wanted. I was served quickly, and a junior employee took it off the wall and carried it down where the owner had bubble wrap cut and he cleaned it and in the process cleaned off the price. The owner checked with me what the price was as he had forgotten suggesting it was $20 cheaper than the price originally shown. As it was I thought the price was already quite fair for the quality of the product I was buying. I pointed out the error and he thanked me for my honesty and only charged me the lower figure. I discussed the best way to hang it and gave me a slip of aluminium picture rail strip (at no cost) to save me going to the hardware store. He then carried the mirror to my car and loaded it. I could not fault anything about the experience, it was the best service I have had and would certainly recommend the firm to anyone looking for a mirror. We have 2 more bathrooms to renovate and I know where I will be heading when the time comes. I will not be looking elsewhere. I certainly came away with a completely different experience here than I did at the Gold Coast two days before.
Both experiences remind me what is important for all businesses to keep in mind, especially those of us in the service industry like insurance. Our brands are important. To have a good reputation and brand you need to treat customers fairly and reward loyalty. If you do you will generate loyalty in return.
Why would an insurer treat someone who has been with them for 20 years the same as someone who chops and changes their insurer on price each year? It is far less expensive to look after your existing clients than try and win them from someone else.
Companies also need to ensure than allowing a partner to piggy back on their reputation has to be carefully managed. The combined reputation is the lower of the two not the higher. I have seen a great improvement in the service and friendliness with Qantas. How much was undone by this partner experience.
JetStar and I are clearly not a good mix. This is not the only bad experience I have had with them and this time it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Travelling as much as I do I want as less hassle as possible. I do not need a group of people in any company sitting in a room trying to work out how to make travel less comfortable this week. The lesson for me was that I should have waited a few minutes more and gone with Virgin who do treat regular business travellers far better. What do you take away from it for your business and customers?