South Africans need more airline satisfaction

Atmosphere Communications

Cape Town – Local airlines have more satisfied customers than last year, but the industry was given the lowest customer satisfaction score overall, according to the SA Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi).

Over 1 200 customers were surveyed to evaluate their satisfaction with domestic airlines in 2014 and the brands included were British Airways (Comair), Kulula, Mango and SAA.

The overall industry score improved 1.2 points to 69.5 out of 100.

Comair and Kulula took leadership positions with scores of 75 and 71.5 out of 100 respectively, while Mango scored on par with the industry at 69.1 and SAA was well below par at 65.6 out of 100.

Mango’s score dropped by 2.7 points on the previous year, which is a statistically significant drop, according to the SAcsi. “Of the four, only Comair was rated as ideal by its customers,” the SAcsi showed.

SAcsi founder Profossory Adré Schreuder said the survey highlighted the importance of loyalty programmes and convenience in the domestic airlines market.

“Kulula customers specifically mentioned the benefits of the Discovery Vitality loyalty programme and Mango customers praised the convenience of online bookings with collection of tickets from Shoprite. This underscores the importance of knowing your customer base,” he said.

Maintenance was an issue specifically mentioned by Mango customers as a concern, in line with a perception that the fleet is older. “Although Mango has updated, the seats in its fleet the perception of an older fleet would take some time to change,” said Schreuder.

Customer expectations higher

Customer expectations were higher than the previous study, with customers expecting the most from Comair and the least from Mango.

With the exception of Mango (which maintained its score), all the airlines improved their perceived quality ratings. Comair again achieved the highest score at 81.3 – significantly higher than the overall perceived quality score of 76.3.

Comair, Kulula and Mango all scored higher than the average industry score for perceived value. SAA, however, has a low perceived value at 6.6 points lower than the average.

Customer complaints lower

In line with improvements on the overall score, customer complaints have reduced since the last survey.

Whereas 8% of customers complain across the industry, SAA has the highest level of complaints at 15%. Although Comair has the lowest level of complaints at 3%, complaints handling is low - only a quarter of complaints are adequately resolved.

“This means that although airlines have a low level of complaints, those that do take the trouble to raise their concerns are not happy with the responses. All companies should aim to reduce the number of complaints but more importantly, airlines need to focus on handling the problem to the best of their ability,” said  Schreuder.

Not recommended

Net Promoter Scores (the likelihood that customers would recommend a particular brand) were not only low, they were negative at -28.15 overall.

“NPS is not the most reliable indicator of satisfaction as it only takes into account promoters or detractors,” said Schreuder. “Around half of all airline customers are detractors.”

Kulula and Mango customers specifically indicated that they would like to have refreshments offered within the fare quoted, yet cost was a key factor in their choice of airline. On the other hand, SAA customers complained about the quality of the food served on flights.

Overview of industry

Relative to the international scores, South Africa’s airline industry score comparatively to the countries such as the US (69) and UK (70). Singapore (77.1) scored the highest, with Turkey and South Korea (73) scoring second highest.

The SAcsi index gives companies detailed information to assist them in improving customer satisfaction. Each month, customer satisfaction results are released for specific industries.  

The SAcsi model combines three drivers of customer satisfaction: customer expectations, perceived quality and perceived value. The calculated customer satisfaction index is statistically linked to two outcomes: customer complaints and customer loyalty.

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