Ryanair – The ultimate Customer Experience mystery

Written by Monique Jansen for Buljan & Partners Consulting

How can a company provoke both love and hatred from their customers? What is the thing that attracts us to them even though we know we will be “tortured” along all customer path and at all touch points, while making a booking, while boarding, during the flight, at arrival? Are they brilliant or just lucky, this is what I would like to find out to solve the Ryanair mystery.

Many blogs exist in which Ryanair is analyzed to the bone and usually in a bad way. There even exists a blog call “I hate Ryanair” http://www.ihateryanair.org/.  And what made me write this is a tweet from the Economist I saw on low costs airlines charging exuberant extras for paying with credit card while paying with credit card is the only payment method offered.

But then again, in January this year my attention was caught by this article in Expansion: http://www.expansion.com/2012/01/11/empresas/transporte/1326300665.html in which it was announced that Ryanair had pushed Iberia off the thrown as the biggest airline in Spanish airports in 2011 in terms of number of passengers. So they must be doing something right. Is it the low cost factor? Maybe not, because while booking and flying you usually end up paying much more than you expected.

There are doubts that the results of 2012 will be as positive as those of 2011, as Ryanair is hit hard by the Spanish crisis and on top of that Iberia has now launched its new own low cost airline.

I have to admit that I am a Ryanair customer too. Not a very frequent one, but only if “I have to”. And this is where I think the trick sits. Ryanair offers flights on a time schedule and to destinations where other airlines are not going, or are so expensive that even paying all the extras with Ryanair it still seems cheap. And that is what I just cannot ignore, why shall I pay 300 euro with a regular airline if I can pay 100 euro with Ryanair and arrive at my destination on time and at a time that suits me much better?

This reminds me of a rather controversial theory of Customer Experience guru Sampson Lee, who, in a CRM conference I visited in the Netherlands in 2011 proclaimed – with Starbucks and Ikea as examples – that there can be well managed “pain points” along the customer path as long as the pleasure points are stronger. I hope Ryanair is capable enough to manage their “pain points”, there are many of them.

What worries me now are four things:

  • The bad publicity on safety about Ryanair lately;
  • Their apparent need for a decent internal customer approach, as I see sad or stressed faces (of staff as well as of passengers!) all over the place;
  • Their weird taste in advertising campaign topics. Example: They recently launched an advertising campaign in Spain intended to save Spain “Spain rescue offer for 12.99 euro”?
  • Their cost saving plans; what else can they save cost on in the future if business goes bad?

Next time I make a booking I will think not only twice but four times before I book (but I will probably end up doing it).

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