How Ryanair Ignored The Complaints - And How You Can Too.

February 17, 2020

Ryanair are not only the largest airline in Europe but are also the airline which gets regular mentioned in newspapers and reviews sites as being among the worst in the world. How can this be? And what does it mean for your business?

When Ryanair began their march to dominance from being a single-plane company they modelled themselves after Southwest Airlines in the US. But unlike Southwest, which has legendary service Ryanair almost from the beginning received loud and visible complaints.

But they ignored them.


What gave them the confidence to continue on their own path?

The answer is twofold.

  1. They recognised that complaints for any business come from a tiny minority of customers.
  2. They had the data which showed they were doing the right thing for the majority of their customers.

If you’ve flown with Ryanair you probably have the same attitude I, and the majority of their customers do. Sure they’re not the most comfortable and yes you have to pay for every extra. But they are efficient and friendly and they get you where they say they will and do it on time and cheaply.

As it turns out this is exactly the service most people want. The complaints come from the few people who expected something different and love to complain.

A recent survey by Oracle showed that 60% of businesses think they provide a great service while only 20% of their customers think they do. The gap in perception is because the business owner is working hard on areas of no interest to the majority of customers. They are wasting their time and effort on what the complaints tell them.

If Ryanair had done this they would have refocused on areas such as providing food, allowing free cabin baggage and more. But that would have led to higher prices and lower efficiencies, exactly what the majority of their customers did not want.

Booking Patterns

Michael O’Leary and the rest of the airline management were able to ignore the complaints because they had the data which told them they could. In their case it was both quick surveys on the flights but also booking numbers. They could see how many bookings were new and how many repeat, how many were individuals and how many groups. And armed with this they could understand how the majority of their customers perceived them.

If nobody made a repeat booking they would know if they were failing to provide the service the customer wanted. But instead they could see a high number of repeat bookings as well as solo-bookings being followed by group bookings. This told them that people not only liked the service but were spreading the word to their friends.

And so Ryanair could continue ignore the cranks.

How It Applies To Your Business

As I previously mentioned the majority of businesses are working to provide great customer service in areas only the cranks care about. This probably includes you.

Not only is this a waste of your time but it leaves you vulnerable to a competitor who knows what the customer wants. After all it doesn’t take much to attract away customers who don’t feel they’re getting good service.

So you need to gather the data that lets you know if you’re providing that good service or not, and that lets you confidently identify and ignore the complaints that don’t matter.

Unlike Ryanair you probably don’t generate that automatically. So how will you get it?

Loyalty Programs provide one way since they allow you to judge the ratio of repeat to new business.

The other way is by asking.

You don’t need lots of questions, in fact that would be the wrong approach since fewer people would take the time to answer. But a simple question which you make it easy and anonymous to answer will do the job.

This is what we created Sentiment and Zapacard to do.

Zapacard includes a Loyalty Program with feedback, while Sentiment is a simple 1-question system which you can place on a tablet or phone and which takes the customer 1 second to respond to.

Information Overload

Of course you don’t want to be reacting to every response, that will only increase stress and lead to more mistakes.

In our implementation we just tell you periodically what the customers think and how you’re doing. If everything is good you can relax but if you’re doing the wrong things you can take action.

This is important and whatever system you choose it’s important to bear this principle in mind. You can take a look here for our example.

The Confidence To Ignore Complaints

Having the confidence to ignore complaints and work on the areas you know the majority of your customers care about is not easy without data. But having that data will, as Ryanair has shown, let you separate yourself from the majority of businesses and not only build a solid foundation but also grow.

It’s important to do it right.

How Do You Ensure You’re Providing The Service Customers Actually Want?

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