Ryanair: the brand that customers will hate for many years to come

Kelly  | 

Low-cost airline Ryanair has made a supreme effort over the past twelve months to improve its customer service. So this was the brand we checked out first when the independent UK consumer watchdog Which? released the latest edition of its respected customer service survey, in which respondents rate 100 major brands against each other (regardless of what they sell).

Ryanair scored extremely poorly last year: it was at the bottom of the chart with an overall percentage score of just 54%. The survey results were – and are – distilled into an overall percentage score for each company, summing up opinions of six aspects of customer service, including ‘staff knowledge’, ‘ability to deal with issues’ and ‘feeling like a valued customer’.

The third worst company for customer service

At first glance, this year’s results are quite as bad for Ryanair. The brand came in at number 98, with a customer satisfaction score of 59%. Surely not very impressive for a business that has spent a lot of time trumpeting about changing its ways and promising to make a real effort from now on, right?

Yes and no. The results tell us a couple of things. Firstly, a 5% increase in consumer satisfaction is actually quite impressive, given that it has only been a year since the airline was voted as having the UK's worst customer service (and was forced to issue a profit warning shortly afterwards). Remember the daft things Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary used to say?

"We think [passengers who forget to print their boarding passes] should pay €60 for being so stupid."
*"You're not getting a refund so f** off. We don't want to hear your sob stories. What part of 'no refund' don't you understand?"

It’s pretty clear that the company had quite a lot of attitude-changing to do. When seen in that light, going from 100th place to 98th place in just twelve months isn’t that bad at all!

Grudge-bearing customers

Another thing these results underscore is just how difficult it is to change your image once consumers have made up their minds about you. As the saying goes: ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’. Poor customer service costs you not only your current customers, but your future ones too.

Although Ryanair has made a great show of changing its ways – and received endless media coverage for doing so – there are an enormous number of disgruntled former customers who will need a lot longer than a year before they consider giving the business a second chance.

So don’t lose heart, Ryanair, you’re on the right track. The same goes for other businesses that may not have made an effort at customer service in the past. It takes time to turn things around. Businesses like Amazon and American Express (who came in at joint 9th place with 79% satisfaction), British Airways (36th place, 74%) and IKEA (60th place, 71%) have put an enormous amount of effort into their customer service over the years.

The results of this year’s survey serve to emphasise just how important it is to focus on your customers at all times. Achieving high levels of satisfaction are vitally important to your business – and it’s not as easy as it looks.