Two small steps to the heart, one big leap to the wallet
A little girl’s hand was held by an elegant SpiceJet stewardess dressed in striking maroon. As the two ladies headed towards the galley, I saw tears rolling down the little one’s cheeks. Her ears were probably hurting as we started descending into Jaipur, India. The stewardesses in the galley started playing with her and then opened up one of the carts for her too! She was given a few packets of biscuits and a SpiceJet kids’ coloring kit. The little one was soon beaming from ear-to-ear and ran back towards her parents full of joy.
You must be wondering I’m telling you this story? Not just because the kid in me got excited and requested for one (see pics below), but because such instances of brand execution are an inherent part of every successful airline’s brand strategy.
Something else that happened on my SpiceJet flight was that an elderly lady who was seated in the bulkhead row was reluctant to put on the seat belt because she was hurting around the waist as the belt was too tight. Instead of shouting orders (which often happens on US-based airlines), the stewardess calmly explained to her the importance of the safety belt, got her a belt extension and helped her securely fasten it. All the time, I sensed a dash of patience and graciousness, and not outright exertion of authority.
Now, the next time parents of that young girl fly, or the elderly lady travels alone – which airline do you think they will pick? The answer is obvious – SpiceJet.
Creating emotional bonds – a hallmark of great airline brands
A crying baby. An aching grandmother. A young dad stressed out with his one year old. All these may sound like annoyances to the typical air traveler, but these are exactly the instances where airline brands that have their act together create a long lasting emotional bond with the customer. Singapore Airlines is famous for taking special care of parents with young children, even helping them carry the child and playing with the child when needed (I’ve witnessed this a number of times myself!). And it was great to see one of the most successful airlines in India deliver service that matches the best.
Matters of the heart go a long way in building brand loyalty
When I spoke with SpiceJet’s CEO Sanjay Aggarwal last year, he emphasized that India is becoming an environment where it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate the brand. And emotional connectivity can go a long way in driving loyalty. For example, the fare on a Bangalore to Mumbai domestic flight in India differs by less than $5 for most of the carriers. In that case, if I have a special memory of being treated well by SpiceJet, or even watching someone else being attended to, I will choose them.
Customer mindsets are actually quite simple to understand. You offer + deliver great value, and the customer will happily become loyal, and recommend the brand to his friends too. In the LCC world, JetBlue, Southwest and now SpiceJet and Indigo are doing it. Among full service carriers, people happily pay a premium to fly Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific. It’s not what expectations the brand sets, but more importantly whether the brand execution exceeds the expectations – which makes a successful airline brand.
What do you think? Is it worth for airline brands to put in the extra effort to create emotional bonds? Do you have stories to share where an airline made you happy? Share it in the comments or on Twitter (@simpliflying).
Special thanks to Deepa Dey, Bijender Singh and the Mumbai Duty Manager of SpiceJet for making my flight from Mumbai-Jaipur extra Spicy!
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