Ryanair is not known for the quality of its customer service nor its interest in customer satisfaction. It sometimes provokes very violent reactions from dissatisfied customers. However, the Irish airline has just announced the creation of a Customer Advisory Panel to improve its service. Could this be a change in Ryanair’s marketing strategy? It is indeed not the first time that Ryanair gives voice to its customers. But Ryanair’s strategic position is unique after the Covid crisis, and the marketing offensive is already being prepared.
If you only have 30 seconds
- Ryanair has just announced the creation of a Customer Advisory Panel to guide the improvement of its customer service
- This is not the first initiative launched by Ryanair to give voice to its customers, but the first one to show such ambitions
- This panel could well herald a new direction in Ryanair’s marketing strategy: reassuring customers of traditional airlines and capturing new market shares in the post-Covid era
Ryanair: the antithesis of customer satisfaction?
Ryanair is very criticized for its customer satisfaction management and regularly criticized for the quality of its customer service. The customer experience proposed by Ryanair would therefore be catastrophic. Its polemical advertisements are undoubtedly part of the reason. But it all depends on the perspective you take.
In one of my most-read articles of the last 10 years, I developed a very different thesis: Ryanair would be the ultimate customer experience. Despite the poor customer service, customers get satisfaction from what is most essential for them, paying less, arriving on time, and not losing their luggage.
But these controversies may soon be a thing of the past with the launch of a Customer Advisory Panel (see screenshot below).
crédits : Shutterstock
Ryanair customer advisory committee: focus group or an actual advisory body?
Ryanair, therefore, announced on May 13, 2021, the launch of a customer advisory panel open to all. All you have to do is apply. The ambition is to improve customer service and passenger satisfaction while maintaining the promises of price and punctuality.
But while the European press sees it as a consultative body, I only read in the press release that a panel (like a focus group or design thinking group) is being set up to think about possible ways of improving customer satisfaction.
The press release clearly states that the panel will meet for the first time this fall but does not specify how often these meetings will take place or even if they will take place.
So, to be sure, I decided to sign up … you never know.
Let’s remember that Ryanair has already given a voice to its customers in the past. Indeed, we recognize that an online forum was set up which allowed customers to suggest ideas. This is how proposals as far-fetched as standing places, the suppression of toilets, or the surcharge for obese people were made. It is worth noting that these open innovation platforms are a little out of fashion. One of the most significant ones that closed was Starbucks’ (150,000 ideas collected).
A change of strategy announced
While waiting to see what this Ryanair customer panel will give, it is clear that this announcement made in the press is not insignificant. Any company aiming at lengthy profitability has to be concerned about its customers’ satisfaction and loyalty. But why advertise it? Usually, we use purely internal means (online surveys, customer interviews) without shouting it from the rooftops.
What does Ryanair have to gain from this publicity for a relatively bland action?
After its antics of the last few years, I think Ryanair is preparing a charm offensive. It wants to sweep away the previous criticisms that prevent it from shining in the sky of European aviation. Ryanair dominates the European sky in terms of passenger numbers (see graph above). But it suffers from criticism of the quality of its customer service.
The post-Covid-19 era is a unique opportunity for Ryanair to attract customers loyal to traditional airlines. But to win them over, it needs to stop scaring them.
The Covid crisis may have strengthened Ryanair. Low-cost airlines were the first to restart and are in a much better financial situation than traditional airlines. The latter had to cut their staff and the destinations they serve as we predicted in April 2020. The cards have been completely reshuffled, and customers now have to make new decisions. This is a unique opportunity for Ryanair to capture these customers who are loyal to traditional airlines. But to convince them, they need to stop being afraid.
It is, therefore, reasonable to think that this customer advisory board is the first step in a strategy of seduction that starts in 2022.