Some Further Insight Into TME (Total Marketing Effect)
By Brian H Meredith
From the NZBusiness"Marketing Maestro" Archive
First published February 2012
I was recently interviewed on TVNZ News at 8 concerning the effect that the Qantas grounding was likely to have on the Qantas brand.It will be significant because Qantas have ridden roughshod over their customers needs I opined.
But then airlines do that, don’t they. They’ve done that for several decades and it has got worse with the passage of time.
An airline called Origin Pacific Airways once stole 7 hours of my life and alienated me and 50 or so other passengers at great cost to them and their Brand.
Now this was a number of years ago but the characteristics of what happened are entirely replicable in today’s air travel environment. I would also note that this airline has long since disappeared from the market having gone broke.
I won’t bore you with a tedious account of each tick of the clock for the time that passed between my 4.30pm Auckland airport arrival and my ultimate, almost 1am, arrival in Nelson on board my Origin flight.
What I do want is to highlight how totally inadequate was the airline’s management of the entire experience.
Flight delays can happen. Passengers know that better than anyone else. What passengers don’t understand is why airlines are so incompetent at managing the passenger experience and relationship when it does happen.
Origin’s management of a hapless bunch of outrageously delayed passengers showed a complete lack of understanding of the powerful reality that this is where marketing really does its work. Not with advertising and predatory pricing (the stocks in trade of airline marketing right now) but with the unplanned messages that constitute the entire passenger experience.
We were not told of any delay to the flight until a few minutes before its scheduled departure.
We were not told anything other than there was a delay, despite the airline knowing at that time that the aircraft was not only not in Auckland but was unlikely to be in Auckland for a very long time.
After about 90 mins we were told that there would be a further delay. No more detail. However, where there is an information vacuum, someone will always move to fill it and, in this case, someone amongst the passenger group managed to establish (via intelligent use of a cellphone) that the aircraft was in Wellington, so those with School C Maths were able to work out that we would not be departing for at least another 90 minutes although the airline had failed to share this marvel of arithmetic excellence.
At around this time we also became hostages of Origin Pacific.
We were in what is laughingly called a gate “lounge” (a large spartan room with seating for around 12 passengers but acres of space on the floor) when it became clear that the door into and out of the “lounge” had a one-way latch on it and was closed and therefore locked.
After a while, a couple of blokes with gold stuff on their sleeves strolled nonchalantly through the “lounge” in the company of a girl (sorry ladies, but she was a girl, still learning how to put lippie on and looking for all the world as if she was playing dress-up with her mum’s old uniform from her TEAL days) who was clip clopping along in the manner of female adolescents with loose court shoes whilst enjoying the sound of horses hooves that results. She was, I believe, a flight attendant (of sorts).
Anyway, enough of this bitching. I asked one of this flight crew if they would be kind enough to release us from our incarceration and whether they could arrange some sandwiches and coffee. Whilst a little shocked by the cheekiness of a passenger addressing them on such matters, the man with most gold said yes and we waited with culinary anticipation.
Some while later we were, as a group, paged and asked to return to the check-in counter. As 50 or so people gathered around the counter, the ground staff began distributing refreshment vouchers to the value of $6. It later became clear that a filled roll in the sparsely stocked cafeteria was around $5 so an agonising choice over food or coffee but certainly not both had to be made. But that didn’t end up mattering much because the cafeteria quickly ran out of stock and closed.
One of the other Customer Service highlights of the affair was a call my wife made to Origin in Nelson trying to find some information – any information – about the flight. “I don’t fly the planes so how would I know when its gonna get here?” she was told. Stunning.
There was more – much more – to this experience and I wish there were space enough to tell some of the stories of the other 50 passengers and the effects it had on their plans. But space does not permit. Nor is there space to do justice to some of the daft things that were said to us – “Hope we have not inconvenienced you” Captain. (7 hours?!) “Try to make up some time en route” Captain (7 hours?!). “We’ve had a terrible day” Flight Attendant. Pardon?
So here’s the outtake which everyone of us in any business should keep at the forefront of our minds:
Don’t spend a fortune finding and attracting customers to your product or service only then to spend an even bigger fortune losing them to your competitors. It costs, on average, 6 times more to win a customer than to keep one so the logic is surely inescapable. The leaky barrel syndrome is rampant in New Zealand businesses and it is costing them, and the economy, untold millions.