I've lost count of the number of commentators in our industry who have bemoaned the lack of customer service offered by budget airlines. Few conference programmes are complete without a debate about customer experience in this sector. Negative impressions stick and perceptions soon become reality.
My own personal recent experience of a slick and intuitive app to book and check in; on time flights, great coffee and smiling staff to boot, proved to be a pleasant surprise aboard the recently launched direct Glasgow to Carcassone flight.
Having had previous bad experiences, I can certainly appreciate and welcome the improvements. Change like this however doesn't happen overnight, and I suspect the transformation in slicker digital access and people strategies has been a steady climb rather than a quick scramble, and one which has commanded strong leadership.
Having had a good experience like this of course encourages repeat bookings not to mention positive advocacy, in the same way that each bad experience attracts the opposite. The complex subject of loyalty is relevant here; my own belief is that great service doesn't actually produce loyalty in and of itself, but rather a gradual build up of trust leading to a higher propensity to recommend and buy.
Of course no trip is complete without the unnecessary but essential magazines and snack assortments to take on the flight - as usual bought as the flight is starting to board. Here my smooth experience began to unravel as having chosen the self service checkout option I couldn't override the request to show my boarding card - the offending document safely embedded in hubby's iPhone app. With little time to spare, my treasured loot had to be abandoned; and in fact I wasn't the only customer to be caught out. Perhaps this extremely efficient process of collecting market information needs to be considered in light of the rapid pace of technological development, and the need for speedy transactions in airports.
Ironically, the newspaper on sale aboard the plane, the Daily Mail, carried a full double spread about their campaign to bring back human service and get rid of self serve machines in supermarkets. The article was a damning indictment of the use of self serve machines from the perspective of customers who each had tales of poor experience in some cases leading to 'machine rage'.
What is the truth here? Like most things around customer experience research it depends on a range of factors relating to situation, nature of service, back up support, associated processes and customer demographic. It is fair to say that the supermarket self serve phenomenon attracts supporters and detractors in equal measure. It remains to be seen what, if any, the response to rising consumer dissatisfaction will be - although we know already that Morrison's have reversed their self serve strategy.
My other surprise unfortunately was discovering that Carcassone was in fact wetter and colder than Glasgow - I learned this courtesy of my weather app - perhaps some things are best left at home!