On a recent business trip to Johannesburg, I couldn't help but
be slightly disappointed when I climbed into my seat on the plane.
Having arrived before my aisle companions, I safely stowed away my
laptop and looked down to notice something was awry... My 'window
seat' was in fact a 'wall seat'. It was hardly worth grumbling
about, as my flight was only 2 hours (I waited longer in the
terminal!) but it did get me thinking about how much organisations
really think about their customers' expectations. Surely
disappointment is not the emotion they hope to induce in us?
We have recently seen a spate of banking campaigns that attempt
to cover up the T's and C's in their offerings (with little real
effect) and there are all sorts of debates about the real value of
loyalty programmes. We are regularly exposed to 'phenomenal' car
deals, only to see the unaffordable 'balloon payment' lurking down
in the footnotes. At least we know what to expect when we see a
dreaded asterisk at the conclusion of a headline.
Do brands ever truly stop and think about what a customer might
read between the lines, or how they might misinterpret a 'clever'
marketing line? That perception could do more brand harm than any
deals do good.
In fairness if I was going to complain about my lack of window,
it would be directed towards Boeing rather than Kulula, and it must
be almost impossible to account for every anomaly (such as the lack
of window in window seat 11A). But do enough brands go
through all their customer touch-points to try and minimize this
risk? Here's my attempt at a quick checklist to manage expectations
and help stop customers from spreading a negative word:
These might seem obvious, but sometimes when brands are fending
off new challenges to their bottom line, or deep in a highly
creative campaign across a myriad of media, it is the smaller
things that fall through the gaps, and it is these small things
that might just make a once-loyal customer rethink their next
You'll not be surprised to hear that I avoided seat 11A on my
return flight to Cape Town - and I specially checked for any
asterisks next to those seats at the online check-in. (There
weren't any). I selected seat 10A and, to my horror, when I arrived
at my row I saw I had selected the 'Wall Seat' again!