I'll have the 'Wall Seat' please...
Posted by
Marios Flourentzou at 09:00

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:

  • Don't be ambiguous in your messaging
  • Don't allow for any 'reading between the lines' or hide anything in your Ts and Cs
  • Always under-promise, so that you can over-deliver
  • Always be honest
  • Don't forget the 'small' things - getting them right can build real loyalty.

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 purchase.

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!

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