07: If Burger King Ran an Airline

Don't get caught plagiarizing

Sun Country Airlines

I know, strange title.  But I recently flew an airline I swear is ran like a fast food franchise! Plus the title works because its filled with currently hot and trending keywords.  It’s much better than the alternative title “Talk To The Customer”  isn’t it??

To be honest, this week’s podcast episode started out as a ranting email review of Sun Country Airlines that ended up being a podcast instead because I saw it as a teachable business moment about remembering who pays the bills and why you are in business;  Its because of a customer.  Hopefully a happy customer who wants to come back again.

Talking to your customer (even in the worst moments of the sales cycle) can result in a lot of good loves coming your way or not talking to them can result in a few well placed rants and one that turned into a podcast!

In this case, I had to make a quick trip back home to Minnesota while recuperating from some serious throat surgery.  That meant I had to fly the Minnesota based “Hometown Airline” Sun Country. If you ever want to see how a fast food franchise would run an airline, just fly Sun Country and you will see. 

My Personal experience and observation of how they operate in front of the customer reminded me of a fast food restaurant more than it did a low cost, competitive airline.

Its as if they ignored the lessons learned from the most successful low cost American airline (South West) and instead took lessons in business operations from Burger King!

  1. Don’t let front line staff know too much
  2. Keep customer contact to a minimum
  3. When all else fails, HIDE!
  4. Only allow approved phrases, comments and gestures when interacting with the customer
  5. Never walk in their shoes
  6. When you have an opportunity to make brownie points with the customers, Don’t!

I say that if you want to keep a customer happy in bad times as well as in good times, talk to them.  Understand them by walking in their shoes often.  Be a customer in your own business and see how it flows and fix the bottle necks. If you have a staff, make sure they know all about the other positions in the business besides their own.

In this case, you have a small airline fighting back from a series of bad PR events, working not only in a competitive market like “low cost” but they limit their market to vacation destinations.  A super competitive niche  where the big boys have deep pockets and can lose money to those destinations and you can’t.

You as a business owner/operator in this niche need to keep those customers you happy and content if you want them to come back and you need to be super responsive. No room for error, arrogance or ignorance.  In this case, you have a very successful competitor that has 20 more years experience than you do (Southwest Airlines) , don’t ignore them.  Learn from them and see what works and what doesn’t

It’s Not Routine

In a customer service business like airlines, the customer can see what you are doing on the front lines.  Not easy to hide.  Your actions, reactions and gestures mean something to them.  What may happen every day to you in your job does not happen to the customer every day.  So the customer sees it as a panic moment, you see it as another daily blip.  Look at it from the customers point of view and act from there. Talk To The Customer!

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