Is Ryanair turning nice? This autumn has brought the unprecedented spectacle of the airline’s famously unrepentant boss Michael O’Leary apologising and pledging to listen to customers.
There has also been a flurry of announcements about how the airline is making changes to make life easier for customers. Last week Ryanair unveiled a 50% cut in baggage fees, and a change in policy to allow passengers to have a second small piece of hand luggage.
So has the airline that once told passengers ‘we don’t want to hear your sob stories’ had an epiphany with customer service?
Ryanair’s customer service
Ryanair is also making changes to its website. From the start of November, you’ll no longer have to retype the distorted text displayed after a flight search to see flight details. The booking process is also being redesigned, to make it easier to navigate and quicker to get to price quotes. And if you want to use the Ryanair smartphone app, you no longer have to pay to do so.
But what about changes to customer service? Well, Ryanair now has a Twitter account, which it promises to use to deal with customer complaints. So if you’re on Twitter, you have a new way of contacting the airline. If not, it’s business as usual.
There is an acknowledgement from the airline’s boss that Ryanair needs to ‘soften some of the harder edges’ and to eliminate things that upset people unnecessarily. But why make any changes at all? The answer may lie in two sets of financial figures…
Ryanair vs EasyJet
In September, Ryanair announced it could fall short of its most pessimistic annual profit target. Two weeks later, EasyJet announced that its full-year results would be at the top of expectations.
EasyJet is outperforming Ryanair financially, and has been working for some time on improving the customer experience. This has been partly about attracting business travellers who want an inexpensive, but comfortable, experience.
Ryanair is after the same market, and many of the changes bring it into line with what EasyJet has already been doing for some time. It looks like the airline has become worried that it’s losing ground to its rival, and that part of the reason comes down to its attitude to customers.
Best and worst brands for customer satisfaction
This was only reinforced when our survey of best and worst brands for customer satisfaction placed Ryanair bottom of a list of 100 companies, with a customer score of just 54%. EasyJet did better, coming joint 68th with a score of 69%.
Brand loyalty matters, and eight out of 10 in our survey said customer service was an important deciding factor. Analysts believe Ryanair can afford to increase its spending on customer service and still compete on price – so perhaps we will see more concrete changes to come. But it could take a long time to win over the sceptics, and Ryanair isn’t going to be handing out free champagne any time soon.
Do you think Ryanair is changing for the better? Have you had an improved experience with the airline?