Where Does The Customer Experience Begin and End?

Back in Virginia after a chilly spring break in NYC. The bad weather yesterday morning cause the usual air traffic delays, so the family got to spend 4 hours in JetBlue’s JFK terminal. I wrote earlier this week about my JetBlue experience at the start of the vacation and the time spent waiting to come home provided additional fodder for a continued discussion (sorry Jet Blue).

At 1:30 pm, just prior to leaving the hotel, I checked JetBlue’s website to see if our 4:40 flight was delayed.  The site said it was on-time, but upon arrival at JFK, I learned we were delayed until 6:00pm. No problem, other than the fact that I never received a notification of delay from JetBlue as promised in their “Customer Bill of Rights“.  JetBlue is building a new terminal at JFK, but until then, they are in an older, temporary facility. Nevertheless, JetBlue needs to keep this area maintained. We experienced broken tables, poorly maintained restrooms, very limited seating, and there was apparently no heat at our gate.

Point 1: Your customer’s experience with you starts well before the actual service that you provide.

One of JetBlue’s “reasons why you’ll like us” is their free Wireless HotSpot service Unfortunately, it hardly ever works at JFK. You can see it as an available network, but your computer rarely connects. So there I sat along with hundreds of others, for 4 hours, trying to get my computer to connect to their network.

Point 2: When you advertise something and set an expectation with your customers, failure to deliver damages your brand.

This was our second spring break trip to NYC. We usually go to warmer, more Southern destinations for spring break as well as other vacations, and we are certified Walt Disney World junkies. As I was sitting at the Jet Blue gate following 5 days of chilly vacation, I thought a lot about how a Disney vacation would have been different.

If you have experienced Disney World, and especially if you have stayed in one of their better resorts, you know that they really focus on delivering a “magical experience”. For many years, the worst part about going to Disney was getting to and from the resort. You could take a group shuttle, which would cost our family about $60 round trip and, if you were the last stop, could take about 2 hours. Alternatively, you could hire a limo for $80-$100 plus tip. You still had to claim and lug your luggage both to and from the airport and if you were coming in before check-in time, you had to go to the hotel and arrange for your luggage to be stored before going to the parks.

Last year, Disney started a new service called Disney’s Magical Express. It gives guests staying at Disney resorts complimentary, round trip transportation and luggage handling. When the customer reserves a pass on the Magical Express, they are sent special tags to attach to their luggage. When you arrive at the Orlando airport, you bypass baggage claim and head straight for the Magical Express bus destined for your hotel. Most airlines participate in the program and they, along with Disney take care of getting you bags to your hotel room. You don’t have to lug you luggage, the buses are really nice touring-style vehicles and on the trip, the kids get to see Disney videos. Oh yeah, you also get a liberal dose of advertising for Disney’s Vacation Club. Using this service also allows you to get to the parks (where you will spend money) sooner.

Departure is just as easy as you check your bags in to your airline and also get your boarding passes at the hotel. The next time you see them is at your home airport. You just get on the bus with your carry-on bags and when you get to the airport, you go straight to the gate. This makes it easier to carry all those things you purchased while on vacation. With addition of this service, Disney has extended the beginning and endpoints of the Disney World experience all the way out to your home town!

The way Disney approaches the customer experience problem is a great example for other companies to follow.  They don’t see the experience happening just on their property.  They look at the entire vacation from the customer’s perspective and find ways to integrate the Disney brand into as many touchpoints as possible.  Then, they ensure that the experience delivered consistently exceeds expectations.  These are two elements for my prescription for building loyalty and Disney delivers these at every turn.  Companies like JetBlue should take note.

3 comments so far

  1. June Thomlin on

    I can only say that my experience with disney world has been more than satisfactory. Their customer servie is 1st class and the disney park is one place that once you enter, you simply do not want to leave !

    My husband and I will be visiting disney world again later this year, together with our 2 boys. We all agree that it is the best place to spend our well deserved holidays.

    Here come dineyland…

  2. […] have written about Disney’s Magical Express before. This is the service that basically extends your Disney experience all the way back to your home […]

  3. […] on January 8, 2008. Last Spring, I wrote about opportunities for improving your brand by focusing on the customers experience in areas that […]


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