Which? rates Ryanair as ‘worst’ brand for customer service

A Which? Consumer survey has rated Irish low-cost airline, Ryanair, as the worst of Britain’s top 100 brands for customer service, The Telegraph has reported.

‘Passengers appear to agree with Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary’s open admission that price is a priority over customer service,’ the Which? report said. However, a passenger who recently travelled with Ryanair said in the Telegraph that he found the company ‘aggressive and hostile towards customers. Staff are rude and unpleasant.’

While rudeness of air stewards was a common complaint, some annoyed customers also said that they are willing to pay extra to be treated with respect, with one example being, ‘I now prefer to pay £50 extra for my flights and to be treated like a human being.’

A Ryanair spokesman dismissed the magazine’s claim, saying: ‘We surveyed over three million passengers on the Ryanair website last night. Only two of them had ever heard of Which? and none of them had ever bought it or read it.

Ryanair’s survey conclusively proves that Which? magazine hasn’t got a clue about what air travel consumers actually do, because they’re too busy booking Ryanair’s low fare, on-time flights to waste time filling in Which? magazine’s tiny surveys.’

The survey asked the readers of ‘Which’ magazine to rate each company based on factors such as staff’s knowledge, attitude and ability to deal with issues. With two stars, out of a maximum five, for each category, Ryanair scored an overall rating of 54 percent, the lowest of all 100 firms. With a score of 59 percent each, mobile phone company TalkTalk and energy supplier NPower shared 98th position.

Cosmetics retailer, Lush, was rated the best performing brand by Which? readers, with a score of 88 percent. The best rated travel firms were British Airways and Thomson, both at 75 percent. Virgin scored 72 percent, putting it joint 51st in the study; Thomas Cook and Flybe scored 71 percent; and easyJet came joint 68th with 69 percent.

The survey also revealed Britons’ 10 biggest customer service vexations, including automated telephone systems, long queues, rude staff, lack of knowledge about products, and annoying ‘hold’ music.

‘Nearly 9 in 10 people said they would leave a brand that treated them poorly so it’s clear there can be no room for complacency. Some companies will have to do far more than compete on brand awareness or price alone if they are to retain their customers in these times of financial squeeze,’ said a Which? spokesperson.

Richard Dilks, Which? policy advisor, commented: ‘Outstanding service can leave you feeling positive, valued and likely to want to repeat the experience. Terrible customer service can leave you feeling stressed, frustrated, angry and, in many cases, never wanting that experience again.’

Premier Inn to launch compact ‘hub’ hotels

UK’s Premier Inn is set to launch a new hotel chain with cheaper compact rooms in major UK city centres including London and Edinburgh.

The ‘hub by Premier Inn’ (‘Hub’) will appeal to people who value price, location and design over space, said parent company, Whitbread.

The ‘Hub’ will offer its customers one of the most high-tech and space-efficient rooms currently available in the UK. ‘Hub’ bedrooms will be 11.4 square meters with a desk that folds into the bed, luggage storage under the bed, an en suite bathroom with power shower and wardrobe, free wi-fi and a 40-inch smart screen TV. Rooms will cost 25 to 30 percent less than current Premier Inn rates.

The ‘Hub’ will be the UK’s first hotel chain where the rooms can be remote controlled using a smart phone app. Guests will be able to check in online and then control the room’s lighting, temperature and also operate the TV or radio using their phone. Each hotel will have its own deli-style restaurant and guests will be able to pre-order breakfast using the Hub app.

‘Hub is all about giving customers more choice. It will provide great quality, contemporary room design in the heart of a major city at an outstanding price,’ says Patrick Dempsey, managing director of hotel group Whitbread.

‘With space at a premium, each aspect of the design has been aimed at optimising every single centimetre of space from the desk that folds up and disappears into the bed to a convenient under the bed space for luggage,’ he added.

The first 167-room ‘hub by Premier Inn’ is scheduled to open on St Martin’s Lane in London by mid 2014. Three more central London properties will then follow in 2015, and another in 2016. Whitbread is looking for around 40 Hub by Premier Inn hotels opened or in the pipeline by 2018.