A Customer Experience to Watch: Learn Five Examples of Good Customer Service from Alaska Airlines [Monthly Brand Crush Post]
Too often we hear about companies failing to meet customer expectations. News cycles are flooded with messes companies can’t clean up and with negatives we all can’t seem to escape.
But what about all those companies that are crushing it? What about the examples of good customer service and the success stories of leaders and employees who ban together to deliver outstanding experiences?
We’re more interested in those stories.
And, each month this year, we plan to tell them.
Today marks our inaugural brand crush post, where we shell out all the details of companies changing the game in customer experience. They’re the ones who hold leading spots on top satisfaction lists and who have a following of raving customer advocates.
First up: Alaska Airlines.
Alaska Airlines has been steadily climbing on the ACSI Index since 2015. And last year, they were the only airline to push past the 70th percentile, reaching 80% satisfaction and nabbing the number one Customer Satisfaction score in the industry. Plus, they’ve been ranked by Trip Advisor as a Traveler’s Choice Winner for the past three consecutive years.
Airlines typically take the cake when it comes to dread-worthy customer service. For years now, nearly all my friends and family groan in agony when they realize they have no other option but to reach out to an airline service team for help.
Last year, my friend was supposed to fly to North Carolina with a major airline. But she never made it there. She’d recently gotten married and changed her name, so the name on the ticket didn’t match her license. She thought this might pose a problem with TSA, so she called the airline for help – asking if she could show other forms of ID. Instead of getting an answer, the agent on the line hung up on her. And then, hit her with a cancellation fee on top of that.
Not to mention, the boatload of persisting problems. Lost luggage, delayed flights, expensive upgrades, and bad attitudes plague the customer experience we get from this industry.
Little leaves us as fuming as when a flight delay hits on our first day of vacation. But through it all, Alaska Airlines is still paraded by customers as a much-loved brand. And, they’re one of the few companies, in any industry, to rank above the 70s on the ACSI Index.
There’s a lot to love about Alaska Airlines. Here are our top five reasons why we’re crushing on the airline.
1. They know the difference between multichannel and omnichannel.
Head to the Alaska Airlines website and you see tons of ways to reach out for help. In seconds, I got access to a mobile app, an FAQ page, and a direct line of contact to the service department. A little more digging led me to a Twitter account staffed with a 24/7 social care team.
And, the airline even asks for CSAT surveys through multiple channels, too. In fact, they have an open CSAT survey on their website. That way, in case you miss the chance to fill out a survey by phone, email, or text, you always have a feedback forum.
Alaska Air has tons of connected channels to make communication seamless for customers, no matter how they reach out. Their omnichannel approach lets customers get help when and how they need it.
And, maybe more importantly, they never lose the human touch. They don’t blanket you with anonymous responses when you reach out. Instead, they always sign off with their name. That way, when you fire off a Tweet to @AlaskaAir, you know it’s not sitting in a long-forgot inbox collecting dust. A real, live human is waiting on the other end of the figurative line to solve real, human problems.
Improve your processes and communication with an omnichannel contact center. Jump to our guide with examples of good customer service that follow simplifying your customer experience with better omnichannel.
2. They treat employees well.
“I started at reservations 30+ years ago, now I’m working at airport. First of all, I truly could not have asked for a more caring crew and company. When my families home burnt down, my Alaska Airlines family got together with donations of money, food, clothing, and Christmas presents for my 3 boys. I don’t think I’ll ever leave. A lot of work from home opportunities available. Opportunity to travel,” said a current Alaska Airlines employee on Glassdoor.
Taking a peek at the company’s reviews on Glassdoor you see their examples of good customer service start with how they treat employees. The company’s positive reputation holds true with its employees, too. Employees boast necessities like excellent benefits (for part-time workers, too), fantastic upper-management, a community of fun and welcoming coworkers, and even flight perks.
Not only that, but the airline takes time to highlight (and promote) employees who’ve gone above and beyond. A few months back, they wrote an article about flight attendant Olga, who used plane resources to throw an unforgettable, impromptu wedding for a couple mid-flight.
The article highlighted Olga’s accomplishments over the course of a 20-year tenure with Alaska Airlines. And, to complete the story and show Olga the love and praise she deserves, the company opened up a forum for peer recognition, too. They collected sentiment from Olga’s colleagues and included these pieces of recognition in the article. Her coworkers talked about how resourceful she is and how the second you meet her, you want to share your life story with her.
Offering public praise and peer recognition to employees is one small but seriously impactful way to show employees how much you value them. Alaska Airlines knows they wouldn’t be where they are without people like Olga. And they jumped at the opportunity to mention this. “Alaska Airlines employees such as Olga Robinson are the reason for our excellence,” said the airline.
3. They get creative.
Alaska Airlines finds creative ways to provide perks to their flyers, so they can ensure top-notch in-flight experiences with every takeoff. On longer flights, they strap iPads to the back of seats, so customers have access to more than 500 different movies on their lengthy trips. And, they partner with cell phone carriers to offer free Wi-Fi to flyers, too.
Plus, they jump at the chance to celebrate special occasions – like serving champagne on their New Year’s Eve flights.
And like hosting a pop-up tailgate for those on flights to Seattle (where they’re headquartered) for the NFL Playoff Game.
Better yet, for the past three years, they’ve even celebrated National Ugly Sweater day by giving customers priority boarding if they wore an ugly sweater. And this year, they stocked a few planes with branded ugly sweaters for passengers.
Personally, I’m ready to book a flight just for these fun perks. What a better way to kick off a vacation? Maybe I’ll take advantage of their discount to see the Northern Lights.
Alaska Airlines is smaller than some of the multinational airline giants out there. But they don’t let a lower budget or fewer corporate resources limit the experience they deliver.
In many cases, operating with a limited budget leaves room for innovation and creative problem-solving. And when you think up creative solutions like this airline, you surely stand out against your big-box competitors.
4. Their employees are empowered to use their judgment to fix customer issues without having to escalate.
The perks, the stellar employees, and the dozen communication channels surely make your flying experience better. But when you hitch a ride on a giant piece of metal with wings, things can still awry. Weather is unpredictable. Maintenance is required. Flight crews get sick (they’re people too, you know). You name it. The reality is, air travel has an element of the unexpected. But Alaska Airlines doesn’t skirt around these realities.
Instead, they take responsibility and make things right when things go wrong. Even if they’re not at fault (Hello, mother nature). And, even if it means handing out extra cash. The airline doesn’t hesitate to offer refunds and rewards to those who’ve had poor experiences. Not to mention, agents handle all replies with empathy.
Making good on your promises and doing what’s in the best interest of customers goes a long way in today’s business climate. It’s how you set the best examples of good customer service.
5. They encourage and reward customer loyalty.
The airline encourages repeat customers with experiential offers like the Alaska Lounge, frequent flier miles, and an airline credit card that lets you rack up points.
And, for customers who invest in the airline and take advantage of these loyalty offers, they’re rewarded two-fold with one-of-a-kind events, holiday pop-ups, and experiences across a number of different cities.
This year, loyal locals got a holiday trip to see The Nutcracker, and credit-card holders got a hands-on experience with animals at the San Diego Zoo.
These small moments of joy with a brand are often what people remember the most.
Well done, Alaska Airlines. We’ll continue to follow along and seek inspiration from your CX journey.
Ready to build an outstanding customer experience of your own using these examples of good customer service? Start by improving your coaching and training, so you empower agents to deliver standout service.