Ms McCall and customer satisfaction

By | Category: Travel rumblings

EASYJET  NEW PLANE LIVERYPix.Tim AndersonIn Monday’s New York Times, there was a story about easyJet and its CEO, Carolyn McCall.

What interested me was a comment she made in the interview and which many would say was axiomatic to all travellers. Quoting the newspaper, “Customer satisfaction is very correlated to on-time performance,’’ she said, “so it’s a really instrumental thing to get right.”

Yes, it is very important to get customer satisfaction right or as right as you can ever get it. That’s what all of us want from any organisation that we deal with. But is on-time performance really linked to it?

The answer, you would think, was a categorical yes but that has proven not necessarily to be the case.

In some work done by our parent company in conjunction with the University of Westminster, it was shown that it wasn’t necessary to be always on time to maintain or attract customer satisfaction. And when you think about it, it is pretty obvious. To a business passenger does it matter whether you are two minutes late or ten minutes or even thirty minutes? Two minutes probably doesn’t matter to either a business passenger or a leisure one, ten might and thirty probably does. So why do airlines increase speed using more fuel to try and save those two minutes? Just for the joy of trumpeting to passengers that they were on-time to the minute?

Leisure passengers generally seem to have been shown in that research to be more flexible than business passengers. To them, 10 minutes might not matter; in some cases thirty minutes wouldn’t. Where it doesn’t matter doesn’t seem to affect customer satisfaction levels greatly and certainly it isn’t sufficient enough to cause them to consider switching flights altogether.

In the face of that, why bother to use all that extra fuel and land on time. You might as well save on fuel and land a few minutes later because it really isn’t going to affect customer satisfaction levels significantly. That is provided you know the leisure/ business mix of passengers and their levels of customer satisfaction. And if you save on fuel, you could either cut prices or make more profits. In the case of one airline on which the theory developed was tested, fuel savings costs were in millions.

So easyJet could save us money if Ms McCall investigated the real correlation between customer satisfaction and on-time performance. As could many other airlines looking to save costs.

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