What Airlines Can Learn from the Brands Leading the Game in Customer Loyalty

Posted by Kelly O'Hara on June 5th, 2017 | Ancillary Revenue, Blog, Customer Experience

You’d be hard pressed to find a brand that didn’t care whether or not their customers remained loyal. After all, the more customer loyalty you have, the better you can predict your revenue year over year making planning easier and, ultimately, insights into how to nab more loyal customers.

Unfortunately, only 13% of consumers fall into the category of brand loyalist, meaning that no amount of convenience or low price could sway them from their favorite brand. And, while this number is already shockingly low, it only indicates that these consumers are loyal to at least one brand in particular. A diehard Coca-Cola fan may be just as likely to have little emotional ties to brands in other categories as the rest of us.

Airlines are especially familiar with the hunt for these loyalists. Over the past few years, the leading airlines have been playing leapfrog for the top spot in BrandKeys’ annual Customer Loyalty Index.

1. Show A Human Side

In the 20+ years that the Customer Loyalty Index has been published, Discover has remained in the number one spot for credit cards. Discover’s most recent messaging of “we treat you like you would treat you” allows Discover to show their customers that they too are human and understand that sometimes, stuff happens. Discover has been lauded for their customer service and the way they connect with their customers, making it easy to understand why they’ve kept their title for multiple decades.

Sometimes passengers don’t get the feeling of equal treatment from airlines. They can feel nickel and dimed when having to pay for every extra amenity, feeling like they’re giving and giving but never receiving anything in return. By building the relationship with passengers and showing them that the airline cares about their experience can help ease customers into a longer lasting relationship with the brand. Once the trust is built, they will become more likely to fly with the airline again (and buy more than before).

2. Be Consistent

If you do an image search for “Google over the years”, you see a consistent image of their search page (you probably did this image search on Google, right?). Google has been able to hold its place as the most popular search engine due largely in part to the consistency that Google users have grown to expect. Even with new product launches, a Google user can expect an interface they know how to use thanks to Google’s ability to keep experiences consistent.

Since air travel can be stressful already, airlines should be doing whatever it takes to ensure that customers know exactly what to expect when flying. Creating a consistent experience not only while on board but also before and after a flight helps give customers peace of mind and the desire to stick with the brand they know they can trust.

3. Make Customer Loyalty Easy

The fact that I love a good caramel macchiato isn’t the only reason why I tend to stay loyal to Starbucks. The coffee chain leading in customer loyalty knows a thing or two about how to improve experiences for their customers, ensuring that they’ll continue to come back. Their mobile app plays a large part in this. The ability to order your coffee before you leave home, pay in store with the app, and manage your account all from your phone makes it easier for customers to choose Starbucks over any other chain.

Adding a mobile element to a passenger’s flying experience gives airlines the chance to create a relationship with their customers before they even step foot on the plane. Giving passengers the option to choose what they want to eat, what amenities they need while in flight, and even what car service they want to pick them up after they land frees them up from having to worry about these elements while in the airport, in air, or at their destination. A passenger app can keep your customers engaged with you at any time of the year – not just while they’re traveling.

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