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Is your CX "Crap On Purpose?"

There are some brands that are positioned as "value brands". These brands serve an important purpose, where the consumer is looking for a product or service which doesn't have all the bells and whistles. They are generally "value priced" (i.e cheaper) - and offer an alternative to consumers, who may not need, or can't afford the more premium offerings.

So if you are a value brand, does that mean - to be consistent with your positioning - that your customer experience should be poor. Should it be "crap on purpose?"

Let me illustrate this idea through the airline industry. Like most Australians, I have travelled both Qantas and Jetstar. They are both owned by the one company (Qantas) - Qantas is the premium offering, and Jetstar the value offering. They are overt about this. The cost of a 90 minute flight from Sydney to Melbourne can be double if you fly Qantas. So how do they manage the Customer Experience?

Qantas - from my personal experience is a good quality and consistent CX. They have good schedules, more staff to help with check-in and boarding, and once on the plane - clean and comfortable air crafts. The inflight service is overall "good" - the food and drink may not be something you post on instagram, but its edible, the staff are warm, and generally you feel like you are valued as a customer.

Now let's consider Jetstar. In the last school holidays, I travelled with my family to Cairns. A major destination - especially for tourism. First of all, online check-in was down prior to arrival. A bad sign. We arrive at the airport. There are a lot of kiosks, but at least 30% of them were not working (there were no signs to highlight this, you got told by other frustrated customers.) When we eventually got to use a kiosk, our bag tags didn't print, and we spent 15 minutes waiting for the single Jetstar staff person on the kiosks to help. Then we got in the MASSIVE line for bag drop off. I find this part hard to understand - because they know how many flights they have, and how many people have booked. They also know its school holidays, so yes there will be more families with kids, which will slow down the usual check-in process, but this is all known. Its not like there has never been school holidays before!

When we finally get through security and we are ready to board, there is staff waiting to weigh hand luggage (I wish they had been allocated to the kiosks instead). The assumption being that you are lying about how big or heavy your bag is. Now, I get there are guidelines and safety etc, but the way this is done is such poor customer experience. First of all, when you are travelling with kids - its hard. There are toys jammed into bags last minute (by them!), extra clothes (in case they are sick), I-pads to try and keep them entertained (and not screaming) on the flight, food (as they don't like plane food) etc etc. I don't know exactly how heavy my hand luggage is - I know its "around" 7 kg - but yes - it could be 8kg. So as we get ready to board, we are singled out, and required to weigh our hand luggage. Yes - its 7.9kg. I feel like a criminal - purposely breaking the rules. I'm then told we need to get it below 7kg. What am I meant to do? So there goes the food, the water, the colouring in pencils - all the things that will keep the kids happy and make the flight a happier experience for everyone. I am then further shamed by being forced to weigh my bag again - to make sure I'm not lying (again)! When we are finally allowed to board, we are all stressed out.

Now given Qantas own both airline brands, it makes me question: do they make Jetstar customer experience crap on purpose? Is this part of a portfolio strategy to differentiate Qantas, from Jetstar, and get more people to "trade up" to Qantas? From an internal perspective this may seem smart - ensuring customers see the value difference - and why hopefully more people will trade up to Qantas. But is it smart in reality?

The problem with such internal thinking is that there is other competition. Other carriers - like Virgin. This graph from Choice shows passenger satisfaction versus price. Virgin's overall satisfaction is the same as Qantas, but at a lower cost. Their cost is still higher than Jetstar - but they have developed a reputable business because the customer experience gap between Qantas and Jetstar was too big.

So while it's important to manage a portfolio - always focus on differentiating through positive customer experience. Even as a "value" brand. Never chose to be "crap on purpose". Because if you don't, someone will come and replace you. And if I have the option, I will never fly Jetstar again.


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