I’ve been traveling a bunch lately including the recent Austin, TX Revolution Tour and Inbound Marketing Summit in Chicago. I haven’t had enough time to develop jet lag because many of the trips have been in-and-out in 24 hours or so. But I have developed a love for one particular airline and a slight despise for another.
During one of my recent flights, I read a great book by Jack Trout: Big Brands, Big Trouble. In this book, Trout reviews branding & positioning mistakes made by big companies we’re all familiar with. I’d recommend this book to anyone trying to build a great brand. One of the many takeaways is this: “Many leaders refuse to knock off their competition because their egos get in the way.”
Back to my story…
Last Friday, I had amazing experience with Southwest Airlines. I missed my flight. Not because I was late, but because I was too dense to read my boarding pass correctly. While the plane boarded, I was casually eating dinner with friends, thinking I had time to spare. I arrived at the gate, just in time to see the plane push off from the gate.
The amazing Southwest employee at the gate spent about 45 minutes working wonders in the computer system to rig a flight pattern that got me to my destination before my luggage (which was on my original flight). Cost: $0.
What does Southwest Airlines mean to me? Friendly, Always Looks Out For Me First, Low Cost, Awesome Service.
Contrast that experience with what occurred just days later – which is the reason why I wrote this blog entry. I had a flight from Ontario, CA to Chicago, IL, with a layover in Phoenix. I made a last minute decision to drive home (to Phoenix) with my family the previous night so I could spend a few extra hours with them. Needless to say, I didn’t catch the first leg of the trip from Ontario to Phoenix. I figured I still had a ticket from Phoenix to Chicago and I’d just hop on for that leg of the trip without much hassle.
Well, when I tried to check in a few minutes ago, I was informed that my ticket had been canceled because I didn’t catch the first leg. If I wanted to get on the second leg, I’d have to pay $150 change fee plus $197 for the ticket. I argued that I already had a ticket for that flight and that I shouldn’t have to pay for another one. For some insane reason, they didn’t see it that way. I almost told them about my experience with Southwest, but realized that they wouldn’t even be able to comprehend what Southwest was doing (and why Southwest is beating the heck out of them).
Anyway, I weaseled my way out of the $197 ticket fee, but still had to pay the $150.
Another lesson from Jack Trout: “Two companies cannot own the same concept in the propsect’s mind.” No matter how hard they try, US Airways will never own the same ideas in my mind as Southwest Airlines (Friendly, Always Looks Out For Me First, Low Cost, Awesome Service). They will always own: Bad Service, Nickel & Dime Me, Care More About Profits Than People).
It’s amazing to me that more companies haven’t tried to copy Southwest Airlines. They’re obviously doing something right. Back to lesson #1; I’m pretty sure some big egos exist at US Airways and other big airlines that don’t want to admit that their current strategy stinks and someone else is doing it better. A good marketer admits mistakes, is humble, learns from his/her mistakes, learns from competitors and attacks with a vengeance.
(If Southwest can charge me less, and still give me free peanuts, US Airways can too. Just sayin’.)
Service is the foundation of loyal customer relationships. What are you doing to strengthen your customer relationships? Are you beating your customers over their head just to make more money or are you helping them reach their goals? Questions like this might seem silly but something every business owner has to ask … and has to consider when competing against customer service-savvy competitors.