In January, Peggy and I ducked out of the cold and flew to Florida for a long weekend via US Airways (now merged with American). The following week my favorite in-flight catalog was kaput—SkyMall.
There has always been the suspicion that most companies' Twitter accounts are run by boys with toys, but no sense. This suspicion might be heightened after a simple interaction between a customer and an airline went awry to the infinite degree. A customer called Elle Rafter wrote a very typical tweet aimed at US Airways: "Unhappy that 1787 sat for an hour on tarmac in CLT because overweight, resulting in over hour late arrival in PDX." She received
Here is the headline and lede of The New York Times story about the Ryanair add-on fees uproar that triggered this column: "Ryanair, Scorned in Europe, Turns on the Charm." From the article: Charging 60 euros, or $82, for carry-on bags deemed too large to go in the cabin. Assessing a penalty of €70, or almost $100, for not checking in online. Bombarding passengers who take a 6:15 a.m. plane with in-flight announcements hawking everything, including snacks, lottery tickets and smokeless cigarettes. Michael O'Leary, the chief executive of the budget airline Ryanair, has vowed to address the criticisms that have made his carrier, Europe's biggest and most profitable, its most reviled.
Quasi-socialist France is going broke. The public trough is empty and I'm nervous.
Prior to the strike mayhem (see IN THE NEWS to the right), we bought and paid for airline tickets from Paris to Philadelphia in mid-December. How long will pandemonium prevail? Will we get home on time or, like France, will we go broke being stuck in Paris with the euro on the rise?
For generations, the French have considered it to be their God-given right to retire at age 60. In order to stay afloat, the Sarkozy government has upped the retirement age to 62.
That's not all. When a woman friend in Paris lost her job, she was eligible to receive the equivalent of 57.4 percent of her salary for up to three years, courtesy of the state. She had a job offer, but opted to double-dip—take freelance work while collecting unemployment. Plus, of course, she has universal health care, as do all French.
The only solution is for the government to legislate some major changes in its business model, and the citizenry is up in arms. It's a mini-revolution.
The point is when upheaval is necessary—in business, health, education or government—it is imperative to alert in advance those who are affected and make a powerful and persuasive argument for the change.
In the case France, the message to workers is simple:
France is running out of money. If you don't go along with this change, your pension will be pennies on the euro. What's more, your grandchildren will be forced to work until they are 75 and will hate you forever.
Our local convenience store a block away has a loopy name that took some getting used to: Wawa.
Started as a dairy in 1902 in Wawa, Pa., the company has nearly 600 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, with a total of 17,000 employees.
Our Wawa is open all the time, spotless, stocked with basic foodstuffs you need when you need them and manned by incredibly nice people. In addition, 157 of the stores sell gasoline.
We recently returned from 12 days in Italy, and the bankers nicked us for an international transaction fee on top of every credit card charge, even though everything is electronic and automatic. The financial services industry is basically a business of sharks eating its customers alive any way it can.
Wawa is not in the financial services business. It is a world-class retailer. If a customer uses one of its ATM machines, chances are some of the cash will be used for an in-store purchase. So in 1996 management opted to charge no fees on Automatic Teller Machine usage by customers. The result:
- 1 billion ATM transactions in 14 years
- $1.3 billion in ancillary income forfeited
- Happy Wawa customers spent $4.7 billion in 2007
I also call it CRM—customer relationship magic.
Are you doing anything to make your customers feel real good about doing business with you?
If not, why not?
Once you have built an opt-in e-mail subscriber database, the next steps are where the work really begins. First, you must ensure a steady flow of additional valid e-mail addresses to make up for those that dissolve over time. Second, you need to communicate frequently with customers in relevant ways in order to build long-term relationships. But how do you measure the value of your opt-in e-mail addresses and ensure that you deliver relevant communications?
Can you imagine being a Napa Valley resident and winning USA Today’s “Pick a Trip Sweepstakes”—a two-night/three-day vacation to New York—and spending 24 hours in transit from San Francisco to New York, the result of a busted temperature gauge in the left engine? Gaga with jet lag, your three halcyon days in the Sour Apple would be two dismal daze before boarding a big jet for the return three-hour assault on your internal clock. Thank goodness my wife, Peggy, and I had planned 10 days in France, not just three or four. I applaud the safety consciousness of US Airways, but what a horrendous
It’s been a tough month for airlines. The following went bust (in alphabetical order): Aloha, ATA, Eos, Frontier and Skybus. In addition, the following airlines announced first-quarter losses: Alaska (-$35.9 million), American (-$328 million), Delta (-$6.4 billion), Northwest (-$4.1 billion), United (-$537 million) and US Airways (-$236 million). Meanwhile, on April 29, Royal Dutch Shell and BP announced quarterly profits of $14.4 billion for the first quarter of 2008. Consumers are screaming bloody murder about the cost of gas and double-digit increases in food prices. Retailers are whining that sales are way off and the cost of goods sold is higher. The culprit: $115+
What triggered this column was a letter to this publication from Anthony Greene in London on my musings last week about how to gussy up important e-mails in order to give them gravitas. In our exchange, he wrote: Thank you, Denny. A nice and utterly relevant piece. Your story about the Ticketmaster e-mail, and how much you appreciated their thoughtfulness, has reminded me of what I regard as one of the greatest missed opportunities in the history of marketing. Every time I use my American Express Centurion Card I cannot help but notice the following words printed on the front, “MEMBER SINCE 82”. So,
I guess in terms of the country—and the balance of trade—a crashing dollar is a good thing. For my balance of trade, it stinks. We flew into London last Saturday and went out for dinner. A bowl of soup for lunch was £8.50, which translates to $17.00. A £4.00 ride on the Underground for 10 blocks to get out of a rainstorm was $8.00 ($16 for two)—not a lot of fun. Dinner for two was at least $100 pretty much anywhere. An exception was the Albert Pub. The bad news: the food was so-so. The good news: dinner was relatively inexpensive. The best