Customer Loyalty and the Court of Public Opinion


“Brand is not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.”
-Marty Neumeier

What kind of impact does public opinion have on a brand? You’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard about United Airlines or seen the pictures of people that were forcibly removed from a flight. Their tagline and branding, however, would tell you to expect to “fly the friendly skies”. The perception of their brand by the general public would tell you to stay away. A quick Google search for United Airlines memes will tell you a lot about what the court of public opinion has to say on the matter.

UA Meme.jpg

But has the United Airlines brand suffered from their PR nightmare?

Within days of their backlash, United’s stock plummeted and the company lost hundreds of millions of dollars. Their NPS score (which rates how loyal people are to a company and how likely they are to recommend them to their friends and family) dropped to -64 and currently stands at 10 out of 100 (as of 9/15/17).

The travel and hospitality industry as a whole averages an NSP score of 44.

Let’s take a look at JetBlue, who is still a relatively young airline (especially when compared to corporations like United). Like every major airline, they’ve had bumps in the road, but by and large, they’ve made creating a pleasant experience for their passengers a huge priority and their customers are among the most loyal. To give you an idea about what perception can mean for customer loyalty, JetBlue’s NPS score is sitting pretty at 68 right now.

As another recent example, my in-laws came to visit us from Pennsylvania. My father-in-law told us about how he’s “not allowed” to buy a ticket from anyone but Delta. To which, my mother-in-law replied, “Why would I fly with anyone else? I know what I like!” Well, there you have it. Her experience has been positive, so she’s adamant about using only Delta and making sure everyone she cares about knows how great Delta is.

So if you’ve ever had a friend gush about an “amazing” product they just bought or had a colleague tell you how much they love the networking group they’re part of, it’s because they’ve loved their experience and have become a brand ambassador for that organization.

Word-of-mouth from those we trust is incredibly impactful. Especially when recent findings from Nielsen’s Harris Poll shows that 82% of consumers consider the advice of family and friends as the most persuasive factor when looking for information about new products or services.

So, when you’re creating your business plan and thinking about your “brand story”, don’t forget to put your customer’s wants, needs, and experience front and center.

If you’re in the Minneapolis area, and you’d like to learn more about how to turn your customers into brand ambassadors, I’m teaming up with Customer Experience expert Deb Brown for a free live event Thursday, October 12th, 2017 from 9:30am - 12pm. Click here to for more information!