THE BLOG
08/10/2013 08:16 BST | Updated 07/12/2013 05:12 GMT

Customer Experience Lessons We Can Learn From Ryanair

Like me, I'm sure you've heard horrifying passenger stories about Ryanair and after a while we become untouched by these stories, most probably because they're told so often. But what really surprised me recently was the way that Ryanair joined Twitter.

Late to the game, the airline joined the social media site just last month. What you'd expect from a brand that has an abundant number of unhappy customers is that it would use the social platform to try to gain back trust and following.

The brand's first tweet was, admittedly, rather witty but the joke was at its customers' expense, it read:

#Ryanair has joined Twitter! Follow our official account for the latest Ryanair news & special offers. PS There's no charge for following us

Call me a humorous killjoy but poking fun at the fact they charge customers for every little thing is not funny, nor is it going to create a devoted following.

After causing a stir among social media users, who were naturally bemused by this, the airline then proceeded to post a tweet in true Ryanair style.

#Ryanair carries over 80m passengers a year so we can't write back on Twitter.

If you walked into a store and a shop assistant said, "we've had lots of customers in-store today so we can't help you." How would you feel? This is exactly what Ryanair has done on Twitter.

Now for a brand that has been voted the worst airline in the world by Which? magazine, it didn't feel like it was trying to reconcile any differences and it begs the question - why did Ryanair join Twitter?

This sloppy approach to social media has placed the airline in a negative light. Social media sites can make or break a brand and, if anything, this has made peoples' impressions of the airline even worse.

It's clear a social media strategy wasn't put in place and the brand had no direction of why it was joining the site. Furthermore, the customer wasn't at the heart of the operation.

So, this brings me to... lessons we can learn from Ryanair.

Ryanair has taught us how not to interact with customers. Everything the brand has shown recently, is the opposite of how it should be done.

Brands are now able to communicate with customers across multiple touch points, be it in-store, on mobile, online or on social media sites, but they must remember that the customer is key.

Take a look at the retail industry; it's currently experiencing aftereffects of failing to provide customers with the right experience. The reason for the decline in high street stores is because retailers are not offering good enough reasons for customers to visit bricks and mortar stores.

Consumers now have multiple options when they shop and visiting the high street is, perhaps, the one that takes the most effort. For that reason, stores must offer something extra - personalisation, assisting shoppers and retail technology - all contribute to enhancing the customer experience.

Providing a good customer experience doesn't just mean offering a friendly customer service, which Ryanair is already lacking, it means having a seamless approach where all customers' needs are anticipated and met, however they choose to interact with a brand. Every communication a customer makes with a brand, even on social media sites, impacts the experience and leaves an impression.

Burberry is a great example of a brand getting it right. The luxury retailer was voted the UK's best omnichannel retailer by Webcredible, and it's not hard to see why. As well as offering a unique store experience, the brand is also ahead of the curve with its online and mobile stores and, in addition, it has a well-executed social media strategy.

Although pricey, Burberry's social media pages attract attention from a diverse audience. The brand has gained a strong social media following, with its Facebook page surpassing over 16 million likes. Burberry has built brand affinity via social media by engaging with its audience and allowing them to feel involved in the brand.

Ryanair, on the other hand, is delivering a bad brand experience.

In a recent survey from Which? passengers rated Ryanair as having the worst customer service, with many stating they would never fly with the airline again, highlighting the importance of providing a good customer experience.

Ryanair might be a low-cost airline but low pricing does nothing to build brand affinity, it might help to get a brand recognised but if the customer experience is wrong, consumers won't stay for the price alone.

Ryanair has taught us how imperative it is to place the customer at the heart of every strategy, every plan and every procedure. Forgetting customers' needs is a critical move and it can have disastrous consequences.

After all, what's a brand without its customers?