Transactional or relationship? It seems that never a day goes by without someone confusing the two.
Of course, I'm talking about survey design or NPS touch point measurement. You know, that basic idea of getting feedback.
So I'm getting polled by my frequent flier airline of choice. I must admit, I have a higher propensity to answer these kind of surveys; after all, I have a professional curiosity. So when an invitation shows up in my inbox, I can't resist. Especially as I just made a life-changing decision. I'm dropping them. I wanted to share why.
Before I talk about switching, I wanted to make the point about transactional surveys. As I have flown well in excess of 100,000 miles with airline for the last 6 years, I would consider myself having a relationship with them. I'm ready to give them insight on why they are losing me as a customer. I can help them think about the shortcomings I have experienced, relative to their competition, that will give them a chance to improve their operation. Now is the perfect opportunity, right on the cusp of defection, to send my parting gift - an honest assessment based on thousands of hours spent in the company of their company.
But no. Instead, they want to know about my flight to Portland.
My flight to Portland was fine. It took off on time. Landed on time. The 1.5 hour journey met my expectations for a clean cabin and good crew communications (those expectations were low). There were a lot of additional questions and, I'm sad to say, I eventually gave up providing feedback on my flight to Portland.
Right before I abandoned them, one final straw of hope. They wanted to know if they would be my airline of choice going forward. No, they won't be! In clear contradiction of all my prior responses that validated the success of their Portland flight, I was still leaving their family. Alarm bells should have started ringing.
I heard no alarm bells. The survey went on, apparently un-phased by this contradiction in response.
The problem was a transactional response to a relationship problem. Measuring a relationship with a transactional approach is a recipe for frustration. If you have a relationship with a customer, you need to give them the opportunity to evaluate the relationship, not just the most recent transaction. The alternative is worse than nothing, just frustrating.
What about switching costs. Well, this story also illustrates the problem with "loyalty" programs, sometimes they are nothing to do with loyalty.
In fact, my frequent flier program is more about creating switching costs than about creating genuine brand loyalty. I didn't choose my airline because I thought they were the best. I didn't think they offered superior service or competitive offerings. I liked their competitors better. I chose them because they bought my loyalty, expensively, with their loyalty program. Free first class seats became a crutch for lousy service and equipment, essentially a hidden discount. It was the opposite of loyalty - a disloyalty program to keep a disloyal customer from switching by offering a goodie bag. Sooner or later, even the goodies don't offset the basic problem with their product. Then, despite the lock in, despite the switching costs and inconvenience, I finally vote with my feet and go for a better service. Helluva way to run a business.