I’m a little late working on this blog post because of a family emergency, but it seems fitting that I write it this morning – and on this very topic – as I fly from Long Beach to Salt Lake City, using both this airport and JetBlue for the first time. After driving 40 miles to the airport, I’m hoping for a smooth experience as I make my way through these “firsts.”
As JetBlue is well known for its brand promise of bringing humanity to air travel, I am looking forward to the “JetBlue experience,” to find out what it’s all about. The company touts more legroom, free DIRECTV and XM Satellite Radio, and free-flowing snacks at no charge. (What? No WiFi?) It also has a Customer Bill of Rights, should we be delayed and stuck on the tarmac for some reason. (I hope we don’t have to experience that portion of the promise.)
So what’s all the hubbub about a brand promise? A brand promise is the expectations you set with your customers. It’s a combination of the brand purpose and the reality of what the brand can deliver. It defines the benefits a customer can expect to receive when experiencing your brand – at every touchpoint. It must be delivered consistently at every touchpoint so as to create predictability. Customers will select your brand because they know that, every time they choose your brand, they will have the same experience. This doesn’t happen on the first interaction – it takes many interactions for customers to begin to trust your brand.
And that introduces another concept related to the brand promise – trust. The brand promise sets expectations, and expectations are aligned with trust. Predictability begets trust, and trust begets loyalty. Over time, I expect that I will trust JetBlue to deliver the same excellent experience every time.
Expectations are an integral part of your customers’ satisfaction levels. As a matter of fact:
Let’s think about that for a second. Customers try your brand with a set of expectations (your brand promise) in mind. How you perform against those expectations leads to some level of satisfaction. If performance meets or exceeds expectations, then customers have a higher level of satisfaction and/or loyalty. If performance is less than expectations, then the brand promise has been broken – no explanation needed on what that means for your company. One sidebar to note here: consumers have higher expectations of iconic brands.
A critical and required component of delivering on the brand promise consistently is to socialize it with your employees. We have all heard that engaged employees drive engaged customers. In order for employees to hold up their end of that deal, they must first know and understand the brand promise. It needs to be communicated to employees (starting with the employee onboarding or orientation program), and it must be reinforced regularly.
JetBlue’s brand promise is to bring humanity to air travel. I read that the company defines humanity as friendliness, flexibility, and caring. JetBlue’s founder and former CEO David Neeleman was quoted as saying, “The JetBlue brand promise dictates how employees execute at the various stages of the customer experience, from the time customers check-in at the gate to the time they land and claim their luggage. And consistency in the experience is key, or else the brand suffers.”
Has JetBlue lived up to its brand promise for me? Well, as I said earlier, it takes time and several interactions before you feel that brand predictability. It’s too early to tell. The flight attendants are friendly, but their service hasn’t really been unique relative to other airlines I’ve flown recently (including Southwest, Continental, Delta, and American). As I write this, about half way into the flight, the DIRECTV system is still not working…stay tuned!