Last week I travelled by Eurostar to a client meeting in Paris. On emerging from the Channel Tunnel in France we were informed that we would have to swap trains in Lille due of a technical fault with the train, meaning we would be over an hour late into Paris. Annoying after a long day in the office but hardly the end of the world. Yet even as the train pulled into Gar du Nord an announcement was made that all passengers would be offered a free trip by Eurostar on a date of our choosing. Suddenly the situation didn’t seem annoying anymore, in fact it felt like the time lost was actually worthwhile – we could get a free trip!
This is in stark contrast to another travel delay I experienced while travelling with Jet Air, India’s ‘premier airline’, back in April. About half an hour after take-off from Heathrow the cabin pressure failed, the yellow oxygen masks dropped and panic spread like wildfire round the cabin. After the longest two minutes of my life the captain came on to say that we should remain calm, everything was in control and that we would return to Heathrow. Once back in London, relieved rather than annoyed, we eagerly awaited news of when we would get on another flight to Mumbai.
After being put up in Lenny Henry’s inn for a night and a day moping we were finally told at 8pm that we would not get to fly for another day – a full 48 hours after our original flight time! 2 days out of a 2 week holiday is no minor annoyance and this was the first time anyone from the airline had bothered to speak to us!
In the end my wife and I got up early the next morning and went to the terminal desk, kicked up a bit of a fuss (putting it lightly) and managed to get the airline to put us on another flight to Mumbai that afternoon. Once in India our troubles were not over as we had to wait another 3 days for our bags! We eventually received compensation a month after returning to the UK but only after countless phone calls and emails to countless customer service representatives.
The level of customer care and ‘crisis management’ in these two experiences is completely different. I can safely say I will never fly with that particular airline again, not because of the traumatic in-flight experience, but because of the way they treated us in the aftermath. But I’ll happily travel with Eurostar again, indeed we’re off to meet the same client in Paris next week on our free ticket! The way they acted quickly to manage the situation, admitted responsibility for their failings and ensured their customers felt valued has given me confidence that even if I do have a delay in the future they will see me right. I think this makes me a brand advocate, simply because when something went wrong they got it right. And hey, I’m blogging positively about Eurostar, for free, because I want to.
We’ve conducted several studies recently that have shown how customers have walked away from business relationships because of bad crisis management – not acting quickly to meet breaks in the supply chain, or keeping customers in the dark when things going wrong. All we want is what we pay for in a reasonable time, and when there are problems we want to know all is being done to resolve them or that our service providers have suitable contingency plans in place. You might pride yourself on having a ‘premier’ product, but you can only truly claim to be premier if you deliver on all aspects of the customer experience. Get it right and you can achieve that elusive brand loyalty.