Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Virgin Atlantic Goes The Extra Mile

I just signed up for the Virgin Atlantic loyalty program called the Flying Club. I have no immediate plans to fly on the airline. Nor do I really need another frequent flyer card, as I’ve got miles banked in three or four programs now.

The reason I joined the club is I just finished reading Business Stripped Bare, Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur, the new book by Virgin-owner Richard Branson. I’ve come away impressed with Branson’s business acumen, his marketing skills, as well as his infectious joie de vivre.

I mean here’s a guy who started in the record business and has since branched out into mobile phones via Virgin Mobile, financial services, health clubs, bio-fuel, stem cell research, health-care and even space travel with Virgin Galactic. His brand, and passion for business, truly knows no boundaries.

But, getting back to Virgin Atlantic, what might be most impressive is how he has keyed into the customer experience as the crucial element of continued loyalty. Sure, Virgin has a traditional air miles program, but Branson identified several areas he believed would offer a better onboard experience, and delivered on them.

These features, some since copied by competitors, include:

*The ability to order food from your seat on-demand, according to your schedule, not the flight attendant

*A vast choice of music and movie options, delivered to a personal entertainment screen at your seat

*Seat-to-seat chatting with friends, colleagues or the attractive woman in 9B, via an entertainment screen keyboard

*Custom designed “soothing” lighting and comfy seats

It’s a reminder that true customer loyalty is never achieved by points programs and perks alone—you also need to deliver a superior customer experience. It’s something Branson strives for across all his business lines, and has me hoping I can find an excuse to fly Virgin Atlantic soon.

This post was written by Tom Rapsas and originally appeared on the blog Loyalty Truth, May 24, 2010.

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