USAA: Millions of Customers, One Bank Branch
USAA (United States Automobile Association) maintains only one bank branch to serve more than 8 million consumers worldwide, yet it boasts a 98 percent customer retention rate and often ranks way ahead of competitors in surveys of customer service and satisfaction. Hundreds of banks, brokerage firms, and other financial services firms offer checking and savings accounts, insurance, mortgage loans, and credit cards; some of these have extensive branch systems and ATM networks. So why do consumers choose USAAâ€”and why do they remain customers, year after year?
USAA specializes in serving military personnel and their families, including those on active duty and those who have left the military due to retirement or honorable separation. Although some of its products are available to the general public, the firmâ€™s marketing efforts are primarily geared toward consumers in uniform and their spouses and children. Many of these consumers have much in common with nonmilitary consumers: They marry, start a family, buy cars or trucks, look forward to buying a home, save for their childrenâ€™s college education, and as retirement approaches, worry about financial security. However, consumers in this segment also face difficult challenges unique to the military life, such as being deployed many miles from home, frequent or unexpected transfers, lengthy separations from family members, and eventual transition to civilian life.
In marketing to this segment, USAA focuses on these consumersâ€™ particular needs, goals, values, and self-concepts. All members of a military family may not be on the same continent for weeks or months at a time, but each adult in the household will still need access to the familyâ€™s accounts, insurance, and so on. In response, USAA offers a variety of ways to manage money matters at any hour from any location via phone or Internet. It was an early adopter of apps for cell phone banking, including an app for scanning and depositing checks without an in-person branch visit. Customers receive daily text messages with updated balance details, whether theyâ€™re at home or on overseas assignment. The website is full of details that are available 24/7, and e-mail assistance is just a few clicks away.
For more personalized attention, customers can make a call and speak with one of USAAâ€™s 12,000 representatives, who will discuss their needs, inquire about their goals, and then offer advice on choosing the right product. In the past, customers had to determine who to call at USAA when they wanted informationâ€”should they contact the banking department or the financial advisory department about retirement accounts? Now USAA makes it easier to get information by phone or online according to life event (getting married or divorced, planning for retirement) or product (home insurance, car loans). And instead of pushing for an immediate purchase, USAAâ€™s phone reps are trained to make suggestions that will best serve the customer in the long run. â€œThe answer may be to not buy that product, if that is the right thing to do for the [customer] in that situation,â€ says a top USAA official. Online at the USAA site customers can get information at their own pace, including watching video seminars, reading expertsâ€™ blog entries, and posting questions or comments on customer-only forums. While researching complex issues such as retirement options, any customer can arrange an individual consultation with USAAâ€™s financial advisors via videoconference. USAAâ€™s professionals do more than answer questions and educate customers about their choices: They also communicate respect for their customers. As one customer observes: â€œItâ€™s not every day I get addressed â€˜sergeantâ€™ by a customer service agent.â€
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How does USAA enhance consumer motivation by making itself and its offerings personally relevant to customers?
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What is USAA doing to facilitate consumersâ€™ ability and opportunity to process information about its services and make informed financial decisions?
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What types of needs (functional, symbolic, hedonic, social, nonsocial) are USAAâ€™s customers likely to experience? How does USAA respond to these needs?
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Does USAA do anything to reduce perceived risk? Explain your answer
Service Recovery Helps JetBlue Fly Higher
JetBlue Airways knows that every flight represents another opportunity to satisfy passengers and to win or reinforce their loyalty. Based at New Yorkâ€™s JFK Airport, JetBlue sent its first jet taxiing down the runway in 2000 and now flies to dozens of U.S. cities plus vacation spots in the Caribbean. The airline prides itself on its low fares and friendly service with extras that many low-cost carriers do not offer. Its jets feature roomy leather seats, satellite TV and satellite radio for everyone, and free Dunkinâ€™ Donuts coffee on all flights. Itâ€™s small wonder that loyal customers have voted JetBlue to the top of many industry surveys and choose to fly the airline whenever they can. Nor has JetBlue been shy about trumpeting its awards and raising customersâ€™ expectations for a superior travel experience from start to finish. Delivering on its service promises has helped JetBlue increase its annual revenues to nearly $6 billion. But what happens when JetBlue customers arrive at the airport expecting an easy flight and instead find themselves sleeping in the terminal or trapped on a parked jet? This service nightmare started when an ice storm struck New York on Valentineâ€™s Day in 2007. Believing that the storm would soon pass and that some flights would then be able to take off, JetBlue allowed passengers to board nine planes, sealed the doors, and sent the jets out toward the runway. As the storm continued to pound the airport, JetBlue kept the jets parked near the runway. The storm raged on, food and water ran out, the bathrooms got dirty, but the jets stayed put for as long as nine hours, until JetBlue brought them back to the terminal and let the angry passengers off.
That day, JetBlue canceled more than 250 flights and stranded thousands of passengers in its JFK terminal. The next day was not much better because JetBlue could not get enough planes and crew members to New York quickly enough to fly the stranded passengers to their destinations. Nor could planes stuck in New York get out to the other cities served by JetBlue, a predicament that disrupted the airlineâ€™s entire schedule. Two days after the storm, the airline had to halt service to 11 cities and cancel 23 percent of its flights while it moved planes and people into position. In all, more than 1,000 flights were canceled in a five-day period, leaving JetBlue customers outraged and frustrated.
However, even as this service nightmare was making headlines across the country, the airlineâ€™s top executives were taking steps to unravel the mess, prevent a recurrence, and address the firestorm of customer dissatisfaction. â€œThis is going to be a different company because of this,â€ vowed the CEO. â€œItâ€™s going to be expensive. But whatâ€™s more important is to win back peopleâ€™s confidence.â€ Within days, JetBlue announced its Customer Bill of Rights, which provides refunds or vouchers for customers whose flights have been canceled or delayed and pledges to get passengers off planes if theyâ€™ve been waiting to take off for more than five hours.
In all, JetBlue paid out $40 million in vouchers and refunds to customers affected by the storm. However, the bigger challenge was to repair its tarnished reputation. Just weeks after the storm, BusinessWeek magazine removed JetBlue from its 2007 listing of Customer Service Champs; before the crisis, the airline would have been number 4. JetBlue kept promoting its Customer Bill of Rights, added more customer-service representatives, trained its workforce to deal more effectively with delays, and redoubled its efforts to satisfy every customer on every flight. These service recovery steps are paying off: JetBlueâ€™s revenues have been growing, and it captured the number 7 spot on BusinessWeekâ€™s listing of Customer Service Champs in 2008.
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Use the disconfirmation paradigm to explain why you think that JetBlue should or should not be raising customer expectations by promoting its service as competitively superior.
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How was the speedy implementation of a Customer Bill of Rights likely to affect the post-decision feelings of customers holding JetBlue tickets for future flights?
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Were JetBlue customers affected by the storm likely to feel dissonance or regret? Why?
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Could JetBlue have done anything differently to make customers happier?
Bicycles: More than Pedal Power
Not so long ago, a bicycle was, well, just a pedal-powered way to get around. Today, the bicycle is not just two-wheeled transportationâ€”it has become a major industry worldwide. A growing number of consumers are buying bikes for commuting, for fun, for status, for personal style, and for environmental reasons.
Especially in developing nations, where incomes are rising and middle-class consumers are looking for more than basic transportation, demand for better bicycles is rising year after year as the product category takes on new significance as a sign of wealth and of interest in a healthy leisure-time activity. â€œAs people become more affluent, they tend to go to global brands,â€ says the director of international sales for Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycles, â€œand thatâ€™s where global brands have advantages.â€ Trekâ€™s high-quality bikes are now marketed in two dozen nations, with even wider distribution on the way.
Some top automotive firms are putting their brands on upscale bicycles. Porsche, for example, offers high end bicycles with precision-made bodies and brakes so riders can glide smoothly on paved paths and navigate off-road trails. Each carries the red, black, and gold brand badge positioned below the handle bars, signaling that the rider is pedaling a Porsche.
Luxury designer brands are also involved in the burgeoning bicycle business. Gucciâ€™s creative designer has developed a lightweight, high-performance bicycle and accessories (such as a helmet and riding gloves) for Bianchi, decorated with the red and green stripes that are Gucciâ€™s brand symbol. Missoniâ€™s colorful bicycle, marketed by cheap chic retailer Target at a more affordable price, is for city-dwellers or suburbanites who want to pedal along in style.
Folding bicycles are increasingly popular, everywhere from Kentucky to Kuala Lumpur. On a recent World Car-Free Day, cyclists rode folding bicycles along Kuala Lumpur roads to nearby mass-transit stations, folded their bikes, and took them on board. They were not just demonstrating a greener alternative to gaspowered vehiclesâ€”they were also showing the convenience and ease of taking folding bikes on commuter trains. Another use of bicycles is for tourist transportation. In Santiago, Chile, cyclists have ridden through the streets to promote environmentally friendly bicycle tourism and encourage the construction of bicycle paths throughout Patagonia.
From the great outdoors to the inner city, bicycles are often used to show off the riderâ€™s personal style. In particular, youngsters who arenâ€™t yet old enough to drive four-wheeled vehicles like to cruise the streets in home-decorated two wheelers. One urban trend in bicycle bling is the â€œscraper bike,â€ a small-framed bike with special touches such as dashes of color, duct tape detailing, aluminum foil wrapped around the wheel spokes, and flashy, outsized accessories. A scraper bike song by the California hip-hop group Trunk Boiz has attracted more than 3 million YouTube views and spread the lookâ€™s popularity far beyond the West Coast. â€œIt just makes you feel like a star,â€ says one teen of the scraper bike he spray painted and outfitted with foiled wrapped spokes. A gallery in Berkeley, California, even exhibited scraper bikes as objects of art.
Consumers who are serious about their bicycling look carefully at specifications and notice which brands the top athletes endorse. Cannondale, for example, is endorsed by womenâ€™s triathlete champion Chrissie Wellington. Many enthusiasts attend bicycle shows, watch bicycle races, test-ride new models, and compare every technical detail before deciding what to buy. One purchase leads to another as enthusiasts acquire all the gear they needâ€”bike racks, locks, seats, tools, and anything else they must have to keep their bikes looking good and working properly. No wonder the two-wheeler business is gaining speed.
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