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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Asking someone to play a role? Ask plainly.

Today I was booking a trip on Southwest.com for my two sons (and I) to head home for their summer visit with their grandparents. They’re 6 and 2 years old.

When asking for the ages of the travelers, Southwest asks for travelers by category. Curiously, the “full fare” category is labeled “Adult Age 2+”. Now, my youngest is mature for 30 months, and might arguably identify more states on a map than several people whose opinion is showcased on prime time game shows, but I’m not sure I’d describe him as an “Adult, 2+”.

Seniors are identified as a separate category, exclusive of “adults. I could see and can understand a member of The Greatest Generation getting offended that my LEGO aficionado and my Elmo fanatic are considered adults, while they are classed otherwise.

I don’t know the operational reason behind this. I’m guessing that the term “full fare” may not be as marketing friendly as “adults”. It’s unnecessary. Companies are better off in a service environment in describing their process and its inputs as plainly as possible.

Since the only people that are subject to a reduced fair are those under two or 65+, identify the category as “full fare travelers”, defined as anyone 2 to 64.

Don’t forego accuracy for a term that sounds a little more appealing. Say what you mean. At worst, the simplified language will reduce confusion. At best, it will earn a measure of respect for being forthright with customers trying to fulfill their role in the service encounter.

1 comment:

Claire Watson said...

Interesting observations, so much so that it prompted me to do a quick search of other airlines, and lo and behold, I discovered that not airlines label passengers the same way.

Canada's WestJet classifies travellers in three categories: ages 0-2 are infants, 2-11 are children and everyone else is an adult.Air Canada has an additional category, youth (ages 11-15) with an adult anyone who is 16+. Still, I find it hard to identify with those between the ages of 12 and 18 (sometimes older than 18) as adults. Predictably if a seat is occupied, the passenger pays full fare.

Delta thoroughly discusses child and infant travel on their website. Apparently children cannot travel at a reduced rate inside the U.S., however they may qualify for a lower fare when travelling outside the country. Delta is also the only airline recommending that children 2 and under travel in a government approved safety seat (which does not include booster seats). The airline also names specific sections of the aircraft where children cannot sit. Interesting who pays attention to their customers, regardless of age.

When is it too early to start build brand loyalty?