Apr 8, 2009

Speaking of Success: Open Source Means Open Dialogue

This week, I traveled to New York City from Chicago on my favorite airline. JetBlue is headquartered in New York and has JFK International Airport as its major hub, featuring a newly renovated terminal with a number of innovative features—including to-your-gate food service delivery. In-flight entertainment options, such as DirectTV, XM Satellite Radio, The New York Times on Air, and free-of-charge healthy snacks are just some of what makes this 8-year old company a major competitor against airlines that are struggling after decades of doing business.

Besides its branded “Even More Leg Room” and leather seats for every passenger (along with the amenities named above), what makes jetBlue so special as a standout in its industry?

The fact is, the company has been earning accolades every year since its inaugural flight in 2000. But what really gave it wings was a much-publicized customer service catastrophe on Valentine’s Day of 2006, when jetBlue learned the hard way what not to do—the key word being, “learned.” What might have sunken another such young company kept jetBlue sailing through the skies: After disgruntled passengers were kept aboard grounded flights at JFK for several hours during an ice storm, the airline created its Customer Bill of Rights, stating among other things, that passengers who experience on-board ground delays will be reimbursed to some extent for the inconvenience. In June of the following year, it miraculously ranked highest in customer satisfaction of all North American low-cost air carriers by J.D. Power & Associates—an honor it continues to boast to date.

This ‘open source-esque’, evolving strategy keeps the “customer satisfaction” brand alive and well. In example, witness the honesty of CEO David Neeleman, who—rather than downplaying the Valentine’s Day event—gave an emotional press conference a few days later, where he confessed to feeling “humiliated and mortified,” and even shared with the world the reasons behind the debacle: a faulty communications system between pilots and other staff that slowed service options down to a standstill. The changes made to the company’s communication infrastructure ensured that the Customer Bill of Rights was more than just lip service.

On my own flight, I got to see this super-hyped customer satisfaction promise in action: The electronic equipment for the plane’s entertainment system was out of order, which meant I received a $15.00 voucher toward my next jetBlue flight. Also, we passengers were informed of the glitch at the gate prior to boarding; both the pilot and the flight attendants made additional apologetic announcements at take-off, as well.

The most important factor in any open source service or product is always an open dialogue with the customer. I frequently receive e-mail messages from this customer-oriented airline after my flights, often containing a survey form. I love to fill out these forms, cherishing the opportunity to voice my opinions about how I believe the company and crew have (or have not) gone above and beyond to enhance my in-flight experience.

How do you keep the channels of communications open with your customers or potential customers? Is your brand sending an inconsistent message? Or do you take an honest and open approach to welcoming feedback and aligning or alleviating inconsistencies? Studies show that surveys that use a combination of ratings and written feedback can best measure customer satisfaction. Implementing the survey findings is the height of marketing strategy. KiKi Productions, Inc., can help you implement the right survey approach and the right branding solutions for your company’s target audience. Talk about satisfying!

(c) KiKi Productions, Inc. 2009


  1. I love Jet Blue, too!!!

  2. We are both in good company (no pun intended, I'm sure!)


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