A few months ago we published a post regarding Ryanair's infamous history of poor customer service, how they are beginning to turn things around and why it should be a wake up call for anyone not taking customer service and customer experience seriously. If Ryanair and Michael O’Leary can realise the importance of customer experience, then so should you.
The Irish owned discount airline has begun to leave it's shoddy customer service roots with the appointment of a new marketing director and a programme of change entitled 'Always Getting Better'. You are no longer pestered every few minutes in-flight to be sold something, you can bring extra baggage for free, reserve your seat for free and making changes to your booking has become far easier. There has been a customer experience U-turn both off and on-line.
This year Ryanair celebrates 30 years in the airline business as it continues to work on providing a better customer experience for its passengers. We wanted to give you an update on how Kenny Jacobs (Ryanair's new marketing director) is building better customer experience, through digital channels in particular and outline improvements which your business could replicate.
Ryanair's first website launched in 2000 and was designed for a mere £11,000 by 17 year old John Beckett and 22 year old Thomas Linehan. The company was originally quoted £2.25 million by commercial web designers but the cheaper option still proved to be a success for the business. By 2004 www.ryanair.com was the most searched travel website and accounted for 98% of the company's bookings.
Although the initial website did offer a new channel for Ryanair to sell plane tickets through, it was clear that the experience of booking from the perspective of the customer wasn't great and as the internet and digital technologies developed, Ryanair had to update it.
The original website by today's standards (and even 5 years ago) was outdated and difficult to navigate. The booking process was full of advertisements, it took a minimum of 17 clicks to book a flight, there were booking barriers such as captcha codes and terms and conditions were almost hidden. A stressful experience with your brand online results in an unhappy customer who will not become loyal and who will certainly not spread positive word of mouth about you.
In 2013 came the decision to redesign the website in order to provide a better customer experience during booking. The overhaul of the website finished in 2014 and created an online experience which was smoother and friendlier than the previous website. Advertisements and captcha codes have been removed, it only takes 5 clicks to book a flight and live chat is provided in key areas of the website (so that customers can get help when they need it).
The switch to the new website wasn't planned perfectly however and faulty automatic redirects meant that many passengers (at Ryanair's busiest time of year) faced inconvenience when trying to get to the website in the first place (Ryanair's search engine rankings fell dramatically during the changeover. A lesson in why all adjustments to the customer experience should be well planned out, in order to avoid any unwanted negative experiences.
With technology developing at such a fast rate, providing a better customer experience also meant making booking more accessible across devices for Ryanair. In 2014 Ryanair launched a new mobile app in order to accommodate smartphone users looking to book flights quickly and streamline their interaction with the website.
The new mobile app (available free for iOS and Android operating systems) doesn't just allow customers to have a pain free booking process (like the new website) but also allows them to keep track of flight details and use mobile check-in; the app makes the whole process of booking, to stepping on the plane, a positive customer experience.
Available in multiple languages and with downloadable boarding passes, "you can book a flight on the app in less than 100 seconds" according to O'Leary. This development of a digital channel doesn't ensure that passengers have a great experience on their flight of course but does highlight the importance of providing a great customer experience from first to last interaction with the customer.
Even just a small unpleasant or inconvenient experience with a brand can turn a customer off the brand for life. Your brand representatives and technology need to reinforce a positive message and provide a positive experience at all times to build relationships with customers.
Now that low prices (and negative publicity) aren't Ryanair's sole differentiator, they are beginning to develop a competitive advantage that can be sustained. Customers will only tolerate a poor experience for the sake of low fares for a finite amount of time and Ryanair is realising that it must provide the whole package to compete in the airline market. Digital is at the forefront of Ryanair's customer experience improvements as it is the main channel through which it advertises its brand and receives bookings.
In a world that is becoming ever more digitally focused, consumers shopping online for clothes, cars, flights etc. expect a great customer experience throughout their interaction with you. If you can't provide a better customer experience than competitors then your customers won't stick around for long. Ryanair has realised this, and if you haven't already, you should too.
If you're interested in reading more about the history of Ryanair's digital channels, check out the infographic below from DPFOC.
If you're looking for tips on how to turn your customer experience around, our blog is full of useful resources, guides and suggestions. You can find all of our blog posts.
Also, let us know your thoughts on the Ryanair turnaround in the comments below. Will the new strategy be enough to see Ryanair compete in the long term? What else do you think the company can do to improve its customer experience?
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