My relationship with Northwest Airlines

Over the summer I did a lot of traveling, and primarily used Northwest Airlines. Long flights to and from Hawaii for work and a couple cross-country trips for business and family.

Enough to qualify for Silver Elite status. This is the first time I’ve ever traveled enough to have this many miles, so I was pretty stoked. Free first class upgrades, living the jet set life in the special WorldPerks lounge at the airport, priority check in and baggage handling… at least that’s what I thought.

No free first class upgrades to Hawaii from the mainland (or back), which is where we tend to travel most for work. To get into the WorldPerks lounge, you have to pay an additional $300 or something to gain membership for a year. No priority check in and no priority baggage handling.

And to reward me for all my travel on their airline, they sent me this card. “Personally” handed to me by a Northwest employee.

I mean, come on. You want me to think this is a personal thanks by putting a photo of someone’s hands on a piece of paper and sticking my card to it? I would have had a better reception to the card if it had just been in a well-designed package. But they had to try and personalize it. Not only did this not personalize the reward, it made it feel like I’m not important enough for them to communicate with me on a one-to-one level, but they want to communicate to me in a mass-customized, simulated personal relationship.

I’ll probably still fly Northwest, because it flies to a lot of places I end up going. But I don’t have a personal relationship with the airline. They don’t feed me, they have Pepsi products and I’m a Coke guy, and I’m treated just like everyone else: a customer. If you want to reward me, make me feel like a person. Make me feel special.

On a related note, I got a call from a focus group/survey person representing Northwest Airlines. They wanted to know if I wanted to participate in a 1 hour survey to go through their new website (I assume in development) and give feedback. I said, “sure! I love giving feedback on websites.” They were going to pay me $100. In my opinion, this would be a bargain for them to get feedback from someone who works in the industry on the ideas of usability, creating personal relationships with people, design review, etc. But the first question disqualified me… “do you or a member of your family work in a web development industry?”

Really, why should this matter? Is the agency that developed the new site afraid of outside perspectives? Hey, I use the web just like anyone else. I might understand how the technology works a bit more than your non-web development family member, but I’m still a potential visitor to their site.

Tell you what Northwest… I’ll review your site for free. What might have cost you $100 before you launch to give you some insight that might make what I imagine will be your “Web 2.0” website even better, I’ll review it after the site launches, when it will cost you more from a maintenance and time standpoint to change/fix stuff. Just send me an email when the new site launches, which I’m sure you will, because I subscribed to your newsletter and get them quite often.

ps. Northwest’s current website can use a lot of help. Wow, that’s a lot of calls to action on that home page…

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