You never know when (and where) a valuable marketing lesson will take place. For me, as a frequent flyer, my inspiration for this post occurred on two separate occasions above 10,000 feet. Hopefully it provides you with food for thought the next time your marketing efforts (or flying experience) are up for discussion.
Marketing Lesson #1: The Value of Paper-Based Communications
Recently, I was one of the first to board what we were warned would be a completely full Southwest flight. I took a window seat near the front of the plane and was pleased when my row filled early with an older couple traveling on vacation (rather than a screaming infant in a center seat lap).
I know the couple was on vacation because they spent the early part of the flight looking for the phone number they were supposed to call upon arrival. As we have all done from time to time, the man in the aisle seat kept looking in the same folder, hoping the elusive number would suddenly appear if he just went through the folder again and again. His wife watched him, took the folder from him, and did the same thing.
She said to him, “the number was on the computer when they emailed our confirmation.” He said, “I know that but I guess I didn’t print that part of the message.” She sighed deeply and said, “I wish they had mailed us something so we would have all the information.” Real life validation that sometimes there’s just no substitute for that important envelope that arrives in the physical mailbox.
More real life validation can be taken from Epsilon’s 2012 Channel Preference Study, which offers some valuable context to my Southwest example above. Consider the top three reasons U.S. respondents prefer postal mail over email/online information:
- 73% – Can read the info when it is convenient for me
- 61% – Can refer back to the info when needed
- 40% – Can take the info easily to different places
Marketing Lesson #2: Earning Customer Loyalty
Here’s another real life validation. Traveling by plane is rarely a pleasant experience these days. But in the airline customer experience department, score one for Delta! As you know if you’ve spent time on this site, Delta Air Lines is a long-standing and valued client of IWCO Direct, but the amazing flight attendant on my recent flight did not know that.
She greeted everyone with a big smile. She thanked everyone in the exit row for being a frequent Delta flyer. When an air traffic control ground stop at our destination kept us on the tarmac for an extra 20 minutes, she handed out peanuts and pretzels. She reassured us that no connections were in danger because nothing was going in or out of our destination airport due to weather. The Captain invited everyone to use their cell phone while we were sitting on the ground.
Did it make a difference? No one complained. Everyone relaxed and waited patiently. Our ground stop was shorter than we had been told it would be, so any hint of tension evaporated as we took off. And the very best part of the flight?
When the flight attendant reached the exit row, she gave each of us four (yes, four!) packages of Biscoff cookies because, as she said, “You guys are my backbone if we have a problem.” For anyone who has inhaled the Biscoff cookies on a Delta flight and thought, “They should bottle this,” be advised that they have. Check the peanut butter aisle in your supermarket for Biscoff spread. It is amazing on peanut butter (with or without jelly) and a taste sensation on vanilla ice cream and frozen yogurt.
Did this customer experience cost Delta anything? They dealt with a less-than-perfect situation perfectly. I don’t think it cost them anything, but it certainly earned them some customer satisfaction that I will convey when I get the “Tell us about your flight experience” email.
When the time came to turn off electronic equipment, I turned to my print version of Direct Marketing News and read Mark Johnson’s “One Tough Question” article. The tough question posed was “Which is the more powerful marketing asset, customer engagement or customer loyalty?” Mark made a compelling case for the value of a loyal customer. Delta Air Lines demonstrated best practices for earning one loyal customer.
P.S. Full disclosure: not everyone was as charmed and relaxed as I when the plane landed. An agitated passenger pushed me back in my seat as I was stepping into the aisle. When he realized my head hit the overhead compartment he uttered, “Sorry, I’m in a hurry.” I admit I hoped that Karma caused him to be seated next to a screaming infant on his next flight.
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