Monday, December 14, 2009
Thoughts about airlines - and payphones
What turned management attitudes completely around was the discovery that their dismal treatment of payphones had a significant impact on how their (commercially very important) corporate customers viewed BT. These business buyers - rightly - saw payphones as exemplifying BT's attitude towards all of its operations; payphones made an important and very public brand statement. And by ignoring their own public face BT was sending out a strong "don't care" message to the people it really wanted to impress and do business with. Once management realised this, payphones started getting some very serious attention and investment, and the situation rapidly improved.
What does this have to do with airlines? Well, I believe they are running the risk of viewing economy customers much as BT saw its payphones - something to be put up with grudgingly while the "real" business is elsewhere. Today that is a huge mistake. More and more senior business people are flying economy. The attitudes they find there will either make an airline's brand or ruin it, just as much if not more than the attitude towards "turn left" passengers. There is the same brand crossover and connection being made. Airlines who invest in making economy class passengers feel appreciated (which needn't take lots of investment, just attitude) have everything to gain.
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