“We had a narrow definition of customer service and that was a mistake,” O’Leary said. “We have listened to our customers.”
Jacobs added: “With a relentless spirit we have improved customer experience. But we are not there yet, we haven’t fixed Ryanair. When customers are at your centre you never really get there.”
He said allocated seating had been a particularly big hit with families.
“There are no stresses now at the gate because of queues building up to get on board. We have become more professional, friendlier and have quickly fallen in love with our customers,” Jacobs said. “At the same time we have continued to be the number one on low fares. Some said would you have to compromise your value offering by improving customer service. We’ve shown you can do both.”
O’Leary added: “The price gap has got even wider with our closer rivals. We are changing a lot but we will not compromise on price.”
He said there were costs to the programme, including an increase in marketing spend, but it was making savings elsewhere, citing falling fuel costs as one such saving.
The changes have also extended to employees with pilots given i-Pads to make cockpits more efficient and cabin crew offered training on how to improve service. “They tell us that their job is more enjoyable because they see our customers looking happier,” Jacobs said.
Ryanair said it has now established the brand it wants to be – a travel retailer specialising in flights - by fixing the things customers didn’t like and now looking at innovation. “This will be a big year for digital changes and inflight travel experiences. There will be more legroom and new interiors with different morning and nightime ambient lighting,” said O’Leary.
Year three of the programme is currently being sketched out utilising more feedback from customers.
“We’ll continue to listen,” said Jacobs. “As a brand we needed to be more light. We don’t need customers to love us because it is a functional thing that we do but we are retaining more customers and adding new ones. We have said a royal mea culpa and we are benefiting from that.”
Tune in tomorrow to find out how your business can learn from Ryanair...