Customer Utopia

I’m writing this from the comfort of my iPhone on a plane again, and as I set out on my latest trip, I didn’t expect to find myself in Customer Utopia. Yet I guess that’s the unexpected beauty of a brand that takes a good, long look and listens to it’s customers.

Thank you, JetBlue.

When I set foot in Terminal 5, the feted new home of Jetblue at JFK, I knew I was in a different place (especially considering it’s an airport, which is home to some of the most unfriendliest businesses ever…see “ATA” and “US Airways”). It just has a tangible feel of satisfaction, even at the far flung point where you depart the AirTrain or get dropped off by car. You walk through a long, pristine tunnel to get to the actual terminal, and then you descend a hundred foot escalator (have you been there, am I exaggerating?) into Customer Utopia (CU).

CU has damn near everything you could want or need as a JetBlue customer.

The outskirts of CU have plentiful self-service check-in terminals, outnumbered only by service agents proactively helping and steering people. It also has just plenty of plain space, so as you move you’re not climbing or standing upon other people and it doesn’t feel crowded or unpleasant. It also has the standard food and other amenities for anyone in need. Yet only once you’re through security (understandably normal, even in CU, but that’s expected anywhere) are you in the inner sanctum of CU.

The inner sanctum greets you with the food court. Fast food? Sure, in a central area of order and grab buffets, bars and counters that has a central checkout area — so you only have to checkout one time instead of three if you want a latte, burger, and slice of pizza. Need a drink? Multiple bars. Like sports? Sports eatery with large flatscreens. Filet? Tom Collichio steakhouse. Snacks? Of course. It’s mind-numbing. The only other thing more mind-numbing is the fact that you can place an order to YOUR GATE. Yes. Touchscreen terminals let you bypass it all and go order at your gate.

So let’s say you spill ketchup on your shirt. Easy, stop at the LaCoste store or one of the other low-, mid- and high-end clothing retailers. Break your bracelet? Hit the sterling silver shop. Have a question? Go to the staffed customer information booths in the gate areas. Yes. Staffed with live people, so you don’t have to trap an unsuspecting agent at a random gate counter just to ask a question (did anyone ever get a helpful answer doing that anyway?). Power outlet? Use the sponsored charging stations at the gates. And there’d have to be alot of full flights to take up the zillion seats at the gates.

It’s crazy. Add in little touches like ultra-friendly employees, flatscreens with CNN and ESPN everywhere at the gates, and recorded gate announcements so attendants can focus entirely on customers, and you can see why it’s CU.

It made me stop and think more closely about the experience I’m going to offer my customers next time, that’s for sure. Better believe I’m going to take a good, long look at what they want and need and figure out how I can charge ahead with something that makes their experience with my brands better (build my own CU, I will). I arrived hoping to just have a good trip, and left thinking I’d spend more to fly JetBlue if I had to (even though, since my lovely sister works there, I don’t pay much anyway). I arrived prepared for the worst, and left feeling appreciated as a customer and motivated to make my own customers feel the same way.

It doesn’t get alot better than that.

Marketer to marketer, I suggest you also spend more time this year on building your own CU. Spend less time on something else. You won’t regret it.

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