Thursday, September 29, 2011

Norwegian Airlines – the impact of poor customer service on a total brand experience

About once per week I set the alarm on a quarter to four in the morning and drag myself out of bed to prepare to catch a flight to Finland and a good day of meetings. I’ve got the total morning routine sussed out pretty well by now. 

Once at the airport Finnair or SAS used to be my airlines of choice. But then I discovered the simplicity of flying Norwegian. A streamlined process with quick check-in and no queues at terminal 2, and the gate just after security, not a 2k walk away… With nice new planes and smiling staff there has simply been nothing to complain about. By now I have probably experienced around 40 Norwegian Airline journeys to and from Finland. And I must say I used to be a fairly content and satisfied customer. I could in fact even call myself a  Norwegian Airlines brand promoter. Well, that was until today…

A first issue is that at Helsinki Vantaa airport Norwegian has moved from terminal 1 to terminal 2. Since the move check-in is just not working as well any longer and today it was a nightmare. I was late – this is true. But I was there just a few minutes before the check-in closed 45 minutes before take-off. With no luggage to check-in I wasn’t the least worried. However, I somehow managed to mess around with my booking number and the check-in machine. The usual things like writing a 0 instead of an O… and the clock must have ticked on… so all of a sudden the machine wouldn’t allow check-in anymore…

So I promptly walked to the check-in staff. There were two people in front of me in the queue and two staff, one woman and one man. The man was busy doing something important so he couldn’t be bothered with customers and the queue grew. I waited patiently and the clock turned to 40 minutes before check-in until I got to speak to the lady. She informed me that I had missed my opportunity to check-in... Of course I got a bit stressed about this as you do... Especially since I had promised to pick-up my kid from kindergarten straight from the flight.

I said: “I was here before 45 minutes but I had to jiggle with the machines…and I went to the counter as soon as I realized they did not work ”. The lady looked over at her colleague the man and he said: “Oh, so it really took you 10 minutes to walk from the machine to the counter”

Well, I am pregnant but I am still rather mobile... and the journey from the machine to the counter was approx 10 meters. So no, the walk probably took me about 20 seconds... The cheek of a rude man! I got so furious at this supposed to be customer service guy who took the opportunity to tell me off and really enjoy it too! It was totally unnecessary, especially since he simply could have told me in a nice way that I could check in with my mobile phone and the code – which I also did after a furious walk to security. I'm now going to use the strong word bastard!

So, my brand experience of Norwegian has deterioriated through this smug little man who took the opportunity to tell off a customer who used to be a brand promoter. And a customer who via her company spends approx 6000-8000SEK on Norwegian journeys per month. What a clever man!

So this long storey is the storey of how I moved from brand promoter to a brand disliker through one poor customer interface that lasted just a few minutes. One man managed to ruin a relationship I have with Norwegian Airlines - and believe me, this example will be used by me as a future reference when I talk about the importance of delivering a branded service promise at ‘key moments of truth’. This certainly was one for me...

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