Is Your Company Creating an Image or Delivering an Experience?

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Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
In case you missed it, American Airlines has unveiled a new logo. The new logo, dubbed by American as "the Flight Symbol" (see the image on the left) contains the eagle, the star, and the "A" and "refreshed" shades of red, white, and blue. Do you see all these elements? I must be missing something - where's the star? Anyway, as part of its promotions, American claims that its new logo "and the refreshed look and feel of our planes is light, vibrant and modern, reflecting the travel experience we aim to bring you."

In case you missed it, American Airlines has unveiled a new logo. The new logo, dubbed by American as "the Flight Symbol" (see the image on the left) contains the eagle, the star, and the "A" and "refreshed" shades of red, white, and blue. Do you see all these elements? I must be missing something - where's the star? Anyway, as part of its promotions, American claims that its new logo "and the refreshed look and feel of our planes is light, vibrant and modern, reflecting the travel experience we aim to bring you." When I first read this, my knee-jerk reaction was to question how American's planes could possibly be viewed as "light, vibrant and modern." Apparently, it's a work in progress. As part of its efforts, American has added or is in the process of adding:

- Three or four new planes to its fleet each month.
- "Lie-flat" First Class and Business Class seats on new Boeing 777-300ERs.
- Personalized services, new amenities, and updated menu options for passengers that fly First or Business Class on international flights.
- In-flight Wi-Fi now available to all passengers on most U.S. flights and on select international flights starting early this year.
- A "vast" selection of TV programs, movies, audio, games.
- Additional legroom and priority boarding with "Main Cabin Extra," which provides 4"-to-6" of additional legroom and Group 1 boarding with prices starting at an additional $8 extra. These amenities are being added to the majority of American's planes throughout 2013.

What these new amenities suggest to me is that American is trying to woo more people to fly First Class or Business Class. However, most of these new conveniences don't appear to offer a great deal to coach passengers like me. Like many fliers, I look for low price and convenience. I don't want to have to make multiple connections to get to my destination. I also prefer not to have my knees jammed into my chest while I'm trying to use my laptop onboard a flight. If I'm going to be stationery for a few hours, I expect to be able to get some work done. Or at least have the option to do so.

I might be willing to pay $8 more per flight for additional legroom. But isn't that already factored into the cost of flying with Southwest or JetBlue, two perennial front-runners in customer experience rankings that are tabulated annually by Forrester Research and Temkin Group?

In Temkin Group's 2012 customer experience ranking for 206 companies across 18 industries in 2012, which is based on feedback from 10,000 U.S. consumers, Southwest and JetBlue ranked 35th and 89th, respectively, while American helped bring up the rear at 187th.

I can see how American may be attempting to differentiate itself from other airlines by trying to appeal to a higher grade of customer. It's likely part of the company's strategy to drive higher revenues in an industry where airlines are desperately struggling to survive. But if American wants to improve the travel experience for its customers, has to start by improving the airline experience for all of its customers. Creating a sleek new logo may reflect American's aspirations to deliver a better experience. But it has to start by listening to what its customers want and delivering on those needs and preferences if it hopes to carry this out.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION