Customers play a very key role in businesses. They are the life hold of a business, regardless of the frequency or recency of purchase, yet most brands and businesses neglect this fact, majority of them maybe because of their size, become very sloppy and tend to treat their customers like trash. On the other hand, Brands that have grown to become multi billion dollar brands understand the value of customers and put customer centricity at the center of their business. With the advent of the internet and the presence of social media, customers have become more powerful now more than ever, they are able to share their experiences, advice their friends and family and make direct contact with brands on their social media handles with just touch of a button. This new found customer power has made serious Brands and businesses re-position themselves online and show gestures of concern and care because the whole world is watching.
The Arik Story.
Arik Airline is a Nigerian airline company, arguably known as one of the largest airlines in Nigeria with international presence. Even though this airline company holds such a high reputation, recently their service has gone down tremendously. Delayed flights, cancelled flights and lack of customer respect and care. Owing to a major financial stress and most aircraft not being operational, Arik was reportedly taken over by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) because they believed the Airline was too big to fail. Arik Air, the largest carrier in West and Central Africa, has been having a running battle with its passengers in recent times over persistent flight delays and cancellations.
I have a personal experience with the brand but I will try as much as possible not to make this post personal.
My Arik Airline Story.
I wanted to travel to Nigeria on the 27th of February and decided to book a flight from London to Lagos with a Nigerian airline with the aim of showing patriotism and investing in the country’s economy in my own little way. My genuine intentions turned into a disastrous experience. The flight was booked about 2 weeks before my flight and I was looking forward to flying with them for the first time. I got a mail from them with the below message, as you can see it was dated on the 23rd of February.
Telling me my flight has been cancelled 4 days to the time I am supposed to fly put a lot strain and concern to me, I would need to get another flight at that close time frame and the flight would be definitely more expensive due the short time frame. I do not have a problem with flights being cancelled because businesses face challenges once in a while, and as a business man – I am aware of that but since Arik knew the flight wasn’t just cancelled but their international operation cancelled till further notice, they should know that refund issuance for the international flight should and must be a top priority.
Did you see the line where they said “To Book Your next flight and check0in online, please visit www.arikair.com” Seriously? How can you be so stupid? You should be talking about issuing refunds and not getting people to “book their next flight” when you know your operation is going down the drain. Pettty! Just petty!
I immediately sent them a mail expressing my disappointment in the message above and pointed out that no mention of refund was made, I would like to get my refund ASAP so I can make use of it to get another flight – isn’t this a sensible request? They cam back to me with that “Dear Guest….” message! And some copy and paste reply, I ensured that I filled the payment request form and sent it across to them from the 23rd of February. I didn’t get a response from them and because of my trip and all, I didn’t bother following since they had my card details and they promised to handle my refund.
When I arrived back to Nigeria, I called their customer care line and a lady told me it would take 7-21 working days for my refund to be issued. That sounds outrageous on its own but I felt it might be their company refund policy which if it is – is a very sloppy. I decided to go online to read some refund stories of Arik, it was at that point I knew I was in some serious stuff, these guys have a long track record of not issuing refunds, they have a long track record of not answering customers complaints, they have a bad record of issuing a refund 6months after thet cancelled a flight! How selfish and self-centered can a brand be? Ariline cancellations or delays has NOTHING to do with the customers, if you were very effective, there wouldnt be none, BUT then, you make the customers suffer for choosing to patronize you?
I called them severally and they always say the same thing “We are sorry for the inconvenience, i know how you feel, the department handling that is on it” and through email, they always send copy-paste replies like the one below. No personal touch, just copy and paste.
I decided to visit their office in Lagos twice on two interval. I have called their customer care numerous times but all to no avail. The last 2 calls I made to their customer care line before writing this post – I told them explicitly that I am a content creator and I wouldn’t want to write a blogpost sharing my bitter experience with them and throwing light to their incompetences because I know its going to bring bad press to them and bring their name down BUT just like the good old Arik, their customer service could care less, they were too concerned about reciting the script given to them which always goes like this “We are sorry for your inconveniences, you should have been refunded by now, I will look into this with the department in charge of this”. I do not want to make this post too much about me so I will stop here and share some other customer’s voice.
Arik Customers Complaints On Facebook.
Arik Customers Complaints On Twitter.
— IG:@dammyjewoola (@dammyjewoola) March 13, 2017
— Yvonne Okonkwo (@YvonneOkhakhu) March 3, 2017
@ArikAirlineNg your refund unit says refund is in 10days, it's day 15 and I'm yet to get my refund
— Oluwadamilola biola (@Zlimdermy) March 10, 2017
Arik is actually a useless airline. Never ever again. They have already pushed back my flight ????????
— Ibro D. (@i_donli) March 29, 2017
Let me remind Nigerians, never fly @vueling they are just like Arik. Very incompetent airline. They will take your money n not refund.
— nwxnnx (@DiKachii) April 1, 2017
— Trade Flights (@tradeflights) March 21, 2017
@ArikAirlineNg it is usually ridiculous that someone will call Arik Air & the customer service won't pick & when it picks, it drops the call
— Emmy (@Emmysaints) March 15, 2017
My Expert Advice To Arik Airline
Airlines and brands generally face challenges, its nothing new. Even though customers have become very powerful and they have the power to make and mar a business, they are still very much like a cry-baby, if attended to and showed attention and care, they will conform and be quiet.
(1) Employ Social Media Listeners. Listening is a major key when it comes to attending to customers, as you can see from the facebook posts and tweets above, customers are taking shot at the business and Arik is not responding, they are turning a deaf ear to those painful and brand-wrecking complaints. A brand as big as Arik can afford social media team, and more attention should be paid to listening and responding to customers feedback and queries. Instead of publicizing promotions or how safe and good your flight is when the customers are saying otherwise to their family, friends and the internet.
(2) Have A Better CRM System. Customer Relationship Management plays a very important role in organizations, the bigger your brand, the more attention and investment is to be made to your CRM system. Customers should feel like the brand is having a personal touch with them, not a bulk message feeling. Calling your customers “Dear Guest…” shows you do not have a system that tracks each customers details. You just have a copy and paste strategy. Call customers by their first name, that gives the business a personal touch.
(3) Quality Is Free. If a product or service is done to meet high quality standard in the first time, there would be no cost / price involved in a re-work or maintenance of the product or service. Hence, quality becomes free! Arik will loose more money, time and resources handling with customer refund request, cancellation requests and other major complaints from their customers about their operations. All these can be avoided by “Doing It Right First Time”.
Philip Crosby defined the cost of quality as the price of Non- Conformance. (Cost Of Quality = Price of Conformance + Price of Non Conformance)
Where the Price of Conformance = The cost of making sure that a product or service meets high quality standards. E.g Testing, Appraisals and the likes.
Price of Non-Conformance = The cost incured when the product or service does not meet quality standards. E.g Cost of re-construction, cost of refund issuance, cost of maintenance.
Thanks for reading.
Daniel Damilola Nejo