Sunday, February 28, 2010

V Australia – they nearly lost me at hello!

For those of you who are regular flyers on Virgin Blue you would have seen the very sexy introduction of V Australia - the crowd stopping blondes walking through the airport dressed in stunning red.

I chose to fly them over the Christmas break to Fiji which is one of their new routes. Many of you know I am a huge virgin fan and following is my interesting experience with them.

My kids and I were due to fly out to Fiji on the 21st of Dec on an 8am flight, there was much excitement, an early morning rise and an the sense of adventure of flying on a new airline.

As we approached the airport we saw a long line of people waiting to check in. My alarm bells began to chime ever so quietly. We joined the queue and my daughter, who by the way has no patience in queues, decided to go to the front and find out just what the hell was going on.

There was much confusion and anxiety when there was an announcement made informing us that the flight had been cancelled and they would let us know what our options were.

Well my kids were not going to stand for this and we walked up to the gold frequent flyers aisle to be told by a very friendly customer service person that there had been a medical emergency on the flight and therefore it had never arrived into Australia. They would do their best to get us on the next flight.

At this stage I thought my daughter was going to reach over and rip this woman’s spleen out however we were guaranteed a seat flight the next morning. All very deflating and annoying. I requested my usual seat, towards the front of the aircraft and we made our way home.

Now at this point as a frequent flyer that has provided Virgin with my email address and mobile phone number I did wonder why a simple text message to me was not made. I am sure there is a reasonable process that they follow whenever situations like this occur however as the customer having to make my way to the airport at 6am, wait in a queue to be told to do it again the very next day was not an experience enjoyed.

The next morning we checked in and thank goodness the flight was on time however we were seated at the very back of the plane, not my regular seating request. I asked the customer service team to put a request in to change this as in Fiji unless you get off relatively first of the flight you end up in a long hot humid queue.

We boarded the flight and not only were we seated at the back of the flight but in the middle row which I hate.

V Australia provides their clients with a survey that you can complete during the flight either electronically or on a form. Well needless to say I went to town on providing feedback on the level of service I had received in comparison to my expectations based on their marketing and sister brand Virgin.

My feedback was fairly scathing and my daughter handed the flight attended the survey indicating quiet clearly that it wasn’t from her.

Now the crew had two choices, to read it immediately or file away for someone on the ground to read at some point. To their credit it was read immediately and within 5 mins I had the cabin supervisor was at our seats apologising and offering to move us into business class once the flight was airborne. You can imagine the joy of my kids at this news and reading this you may be thinking to yourself was Sadhana being unreasonable. Maybe but here are some key points from this issue that you may wish to consider from a business prospective:

As the client I had very clear expectations on what my experience should look like when I chose to spend money with V Australia. This experience was based on their marketing and experiences with Virgin Blue. When they didn’t match up to expectations I was angry and disappointed.

Do you know what the expectations are of your clients when they chose to do business with your brand?

Is everyone in your business aware of what this experience should look like?

How much training have you done to ensure that every interaction, every moment of truth your team provide a “wow” experience?

My complaint could have been dealt with at a later point however the team on board the flight were empowered to make decisions and changes regardless of what the process and systems were. They were able to convert me from a disillusioned client to a raving fan.

Are your people empowered to resolve client issues immediately?

Do they know how to deal with clients who have issues?

Do they understand how to change the experience and still work within the processes of your businesses?

How are your teams dealing with complaints? In fact do you know the number of complaints that occur in your business and what these tell you about performance of individuals, the team and training gaps?

The lack of communication from V Australia despite the fact they had my mobile and email address was for me a major oversite.

In your business how are you choosing to communicate with your clients, is it relevant and informative?

I chose to complain to the V Australia on board the flight for a number of reasons. Firstly they asked me for my feedback on their service and my experience with them. Secondly I am very brand loyal and when the service delivery did not meet my expectations I wanted to provide them with an opportunity to change my experience and review their service standards.

Are you providing your clients with the same opportunity and are they brand loyal enough to give it to you.

In an article published in the Sunday Telegraph Mag research in America showed that one unhappy customer told 25 people about it and a happy one tells four.

However lets take into account the internet, I would say that realistically on unhappy customer has the potential to tell thousands within seconds. Remember it is no longer about "word of mouth" but world of mouth!

The business class experience was by the way awesome, my kids had a fabulous time and I continue to remain a raving fan of the Virgin brand.