Maritz Drops Yet Another Airline Customer Service Survey

Customer Service

I know I’ve written about this in the past, but I continue to be amazed at the insanely large number of airline customer service surveys that come out. We have the Wichita St guys doing one, the University of Michigan guys doing another, and JD Power as well.

07_06_27 custsvcsurveyToday, Maritz Research joined the crowd saying . . . absolutely nothing exciting.

The money quote? That’d be from the director of consulting and strategic implementation at Maritz. “Competing on price is no longer an option for airlines.” Oh really? I’m sure you know best. It’s been shown time and again that price and schedule are really the two main drivers of ticket purchases. Everything else is secondary. So, you’re not going to see them stopping to compete on price any time soon, at least as long as consumers keep shopping that way.

So what did Maritz suggest? Well, the results say that airlines should add a “family section” to their planes and they should make sure they don’t allow cell phones. There has to be more than that, right?

Well, they say that 63% of people are willing to pay for extra legroom and 42% are willing to pay more for food. As far as legroom goes, some people are willing to pay extra for it. That’s why United still has Economy Plus. But when American tried to put more legroom on the whole plane, they couldn’t make it work and reversed the decision. The biggest problem with this survey? Well, just for starters, it’s too simple. How much would more would people pay? Remember, if someone is going to pay a small amount more for more legroom, there’s a decent chance that won’t make up for the lost revenue from having to remove seats from the plane. And it gets a lot more complicated than that.

Going back to the food issue, if 42% of people are willing to pay more, then what’s wrong with a buy on board model? Don’t get me wrong, I hate those stupid snack boxes. But I like the buy on board options where they have fresh food. (Delta’s Song had great stuff.) If I’m hungry, I’ll buy it. If not, I won’t.

In the end, I don’t believe most of these surveys. There’s definitely a bias between what people say they’ll do and what they will do. If you’re taking a survey, sure you’ll say you’d pay for more legroom. But when it comes time to whip that credit card out, you’re still looking at the lowest fare.

Part of this can be blamed on the way airlines sell their products. When we had PriceGrabber Travel up and running, we showed you legroom on flights, but nobody else does that so how can customers even compare? If they could compare, how much more do you think they’d be willing to pay? And how is that impacted by frequent flier program loyalty? There are far more complicated questions that need to be answered to turn these surveys into something useful. They also need to review actual consumer behavior instead of just what people are saying they’ll do.

Unfortunately, most of the surveys we see coming out these days are just fluff and can’t really help effect change.

6 comments on “Maritz Drops Yet Another Airline Customer Service Survey

  1. I agree with the “survey=junk.” There are a lot of people who have use for customer service horror stories–they are running your local paper and USA Today. The same people would breathlessly publish those ‘improvement musts’ surveys as gospel truth..

    BTW what happened to travel???

  2. Ah, good question.

    The decision was made to shut down the travel site back in April. There were several factors that went into the decision-making process, including the desire to refocus our resources back on the core product of shopping comparison.

    Hopefully other sites will get better at merchandising air travel in the future, but for now there just aren’t any good options other than doing it yourself. (That means going to to find accurate on time performance and to find legroom, etc.)

  3. Wow, is my content so boring that all you can focus on is that I mispelled a word? I need to get some better material. Or are you just an angry Maritz employee?

    Either way, the first point is fair. I fixed the misspelling.

    Your second point proves that you didn’t bother with context. I actually had the 42% used incorrectly. It’s not that people are willing to pay 42% more, it’s that 42% of the people are willing to pay more. My use of “then” is correct, but the mistake I made was far worse than just a grammatical one.

  4. Tim = lame.

    Cranky’s point is a great one. Theses surveys are completely useless in determining peoples preferences. There is a massive disconnect between what people will say in a survey and what they do in reality, when making hard choices about how to spend there money.

    Cranky, wasn’t there some BA experience with a similar phenomenon where they did surveys where people said they’d be willing to pay for things that were “good” for the environment, but in reality no one ever did once the program was rolled out?

  5. Hmm, I don’t remember anything about that Frog Man. I’ll see if I can figure it out, but it wouldn’t surprise me. People always say they’ll pay more for things, but when it comes time to swipe that credit card . . .

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Cranky Flier