In 2017 Annual Conference

Blogger: Sarah Hansen, Space Coast Chapter

Elizabeth Ninomiyia, Manager of Corporate Communications for Latin America & the Caribbean at JetBlue Airways, spoke about what makes their customer service stand out in a time where many airlines are being called out for how poorly they treat people flying with them. How they gain customer respect and loyalty?

Facts about JetBlue:

  • It is the 6th largest airline in the U.S., and their goal is to serve the underserved.
  • They focus providing a great service at a reasonable fare and provide high-value geography, competitive fares and award-winning services and amenities.
  • They’re obsessed with innovating and staying on top of airline trends.
  • They were the first to offer free Wi-Fi, and continue to offer free snacks and drinks.
  • Seats are comfy and have TV screens, while also providing industry-leading legroom.

In other words, they are willing to INVEST in the comfort of their customers.

Outside of comfort how does JetBlue gain loyal customers who keep coming back to them?

It starts with your employees

JetBlue treats their employees with respect, calling them crewmembers, and ensuring they are included in communication and major changes before the public hears about it. Internal communications is huge part of their company, and they give their employees permission to break the rules for the customer. Their “crewmembers” know that that they will be rewarded and aren’t afraid to bend rules (within reason) if it means making a customer happy.

From a public relations standpoint, Ninomiyia shared two areas that are important to successfully managing the media and their reputation in the industry: authenticity and collaboration.

  1. Authenticity
    This means you do your best when no one is looking. If it’s not happening in the background, then it’s harder to redeem yourself in a public crisis. Authenticity doesn’t happen overnight; it must be worked on and developed. The company needs to consistently give outstanding customer service, and it will eventually result in the customer giving the company the benefit of the doubt.

    Example: someone gave JetBlue a bad review online, and a customer actually commented on the review saying “I never had this experience…this doesn’t sound like JetBlue.” Loyal customers will stand up for a brand they believe in.

  1. Collaboration
    When responding in a crisis, get the story straight the first time. JetBlue has an employee distribution list and everyone is alerted and kept in the loop. They work together to handle public responses, and follow this formula:
Incident > Action > Response

They have one person manage media requests for record keeping. Before they give any statements, they gather the facts from stakeholders. If you have you to issue an initial statement saying “we’re investigating this,” then do that. It’s better to take time, then go back and correct yourself later.

Also, respond internally and externally to the best of your ability. Be factual with statements and express sentiment; always go back to brand values. Be sure to review social media and articles before posting the statement so you don’t post somewhere it’s not needed.

In summary, consistency, authenticity and collaboration internally are what make a company look good externally and in turn brings in customer loyalty and builds a strong, respected brand.

avatar for Elizabeth Ninomiyia

Elizabeth Ninomiyia

JetBlue Airways, Latin America & the Caribbean
Manager of Corporate Communications
Elizabeth Ninomiya is a manager of corporate communications for JetBlue, overseeing public relations, social media efforts and inaugural route celebrations in international markets, as well as Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the US Hispanic market. Prior to joining JetBlue, Elizabeth was director of marketing communications for South African Airways in North America, where she managed public relations, corporate communications, corporate social responsibility, the airline’s relationship with African diplomatic representatives and tourism boards, and the South African Airways Vacations leisure package program. Her corporate communications career began 19 years ago with American Airlines, on their corporate communications team. She subsequently worked in public affairs with Nova Southeastern University, prior to joining Burger King Corporation’s Latin America & Caribbean division, where she led public relations efforts for company-owned and franchised restaurants in the region.
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