Ryanair's U-turn on customer experience

Low cost doesn't have to mean poor customer service, an effective UX strategy could help right Ryanair's wrongs.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary recently spoke out against the “abrupt culture” Ryanair has become known for, in response to shareholder concerns that customer service issues are hitting sales.

The airline has been committed to a strategy of minimising costs to maintain low fares. However, this has left some customers feeling punished by penalty fares for errors such as forgetting to print a boarding pass.

Eliminating things that unnecessarily annoy customers and revamping the website, is central to O’Leary’s plans for addressing this culture.

Whilst it’s great news that Ryanair appear to be turning its focus to the customer experience, demonstrated by its recent foray into Twitter, will it go far enough towards creating a culture where both Ryanair and its customers are winners?

Business is no longer a zero-sum game. For Ryanair to be profitable - to win - it’s not necessary for customers to lose. In fact the opposite is true. The long-term winners in every industry will be the ones that think and act for the advantage of their customers.

Low cost does not mean poor customer experience

Ryanair is not the first low-cost airline to realise that poor customer experience impacts negatively on its bottom line.

This is even more important when the digital experience is central to the product or service. We worked with easyJet to redesign itsonline booking engineand subsequently, its seat selector tool which easyjet CEO, Carolyn McCall has said has been a contributing factor to their latest results.

They appreciate that experience design can be a differentiator and ultimately win customers, both in the low cost European holiday routes, but also business travellers by introducing flexible ticket options and the online seat selector.

easyJet also has a number of great apps that regularly feature in the ‘Top 10 Travel Apps’ and are free, being an investment by the brand in building rewarding and engaging relationships with consumers. Ryanair was charging €3 for downloads of its own App until late last year (October 2013).

Both easyJet and Ryanair have seen impressive share price gains in the last two years. But, with easyJet showing 268% growth vs Ryanair’s 71%, there seems to be more support for easyJet’s strategy in the City.

What can Ryanair do?

Ryanair now needs to deliver on the promise that it has changed for the better, and fast, by making visible and meaningful improvements to customer experience in all the touchpoints they have with customers.

This starts with making the process of booking a flight online or via mobile easy and hidden-catch free, and extends all the way through to the tone of their customer communications. The start of this is really listening to their customers and responding to what they don’t like, and seeing those improvements through.

Where customer experience leads, the share price will follow.

Ryanair should consider:

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