Positive user experience – the most important aspect of branding

I’ve just returned from a 10 day holiday at peaceful Safety Beach, where I got plenty of sun, good food, wine and sleep. I also enjoyed my first bee sting. At least I think it was a bee, the little bastard.

I want to talk about branding and good customer experience, and the good experience I had with Virgin Blue. Most companies would have to deal with a lot of complaints, but not much complimentary feedback I’m sure, so here’s one piece.

Treat your customers as the source of your livelihood that they no doubt are, and make their experience the best possible, and your brand will be remembered. Your company logo, website, marketing campaigns and everything else is secondary. Get the user experience right and the rest will have a good grounding. I’m not saying anything new here, but so many companies don’t seem to embody this approach.

Back to my story, firstly, from leaving Sydney Airport, there were delays with other flights it seemed, due to cancelled flights and such. The queues were long. At the time I got there (7am), I didn’t know how I would get through to make it to a 7.30 flight. Virgin were able to manage their queuing priority and communication with passengers in such a way as to get us onto our flight when we needed to be. No big deal, but I have seen other carriers bungle this, and I’ve almost missed a flight because of lack of communication.

Fast forward, much eating, drinking, ukulele playing, a sun tan and a bee sting later and it’s the trip back. My companions and I are at Coffs Harbour Airport (the Coffs RSL as I liked to call it). We check in, head over to the departure area and then see that something’s happening. Flights are cancelled. Looks like the rain and heavy fog that have set in are making it impossible to land. Planes have been diverted to Coolangatta after several attempts to land. We are told that we will be driven to Sydney by bus and our tickets refunded. Okay, bad situation, but it’s the weather, no-one can do much about that. Passengers of the “other carrier” are asked to re-book their flights, so I think Virgin is doing well so far.

So we have a drink then shuffle over to where the buses are. We are told it will be 8 hours by bus. Too bad for my friend who is meant to drive up to Newcastle when she gets home. This puts us at home roughly at 1am. By the time we get out, it seems the more eager passengers have already got into a bus that is now full, so we wait for the next one. Around 30 minutes later we are on the road. The second bus is barely half full which means we spread out and relax. 45 minutes later and half way through a movie and Virgin calls the driver to let him know that the plane has landed. We promptly turn back and just make it in time for take off. Too bad for the other bus I’m sorry to say. They turned back also, but after 10 or 20 km they are informed that with their 30 minute head start, they won’t make the plane, and turn around yet again and continue to Sydney for the long haul back. S2BU I guess.

So we make it back to the airport (didn’t get to see the end of the film but no big deal) and get our butts onto the plane for take off. Half a bus load of people now have a 737 to themselves. We really spread out, this is great. The crew were very cool about it, and kept their sense of humour, in what must have been a very trying day for them. 50 minutes later and we’re in Sydney, collecting our baggage and it’s 8.30pm. For me, this was the best possible outcome considering the circumstances. At home in time to delete all my accumulated email and comment spam and catch up on some downloaded episodes of Lost I’ve been waiting two weeks to watch. Too bad for my friend, who didn’t make it to Newcastle, and too bad for that first bus load of people. Still, I think Virgin handled the situation as best as possible and they did it with a smile.

Just to wrap up my holiday story and try to bring it back to the topic of the day, take care of your customers like this and let them take away a positive experience, and they will tell others, just as I am now. Same goes for any business, and for building sites on the web. The millions who switched to using Google never saw a billboard or a bus ad, they were told by friends or colleagues about how quick and easy this new search engine is, and it was true so they continued to use Google. I think the same may go for Virgin Blue if they continue to excel in customer service, and good, simple customer experience.


  1. Glad you had a positive experience, Hank. The end of the film: The kid gets his operation, and the Dad is charged and goes to court, but is let off to watch his son grow up to be a body-building champion. A happy ending all ’round.

  2. Ryszard Herzig
    January 8, 2006
    11:55 pm

    Well of all the bloody kids to come out of St Andrew’s that visit Coffs harbour it had to be you. Yes henry I thought I recognised you at the airport but, I like you you were not sure. Anyway, the outcome was good for you and my friend whio did keep her promise and directed me to your website.

    What mischief are you causing these days. I am sure whatever you are doing you are doing it well. You were that kind of kid that was a smart arse but I did like you and some of the other turkeys that I taught. By the way I am flettered that you remembered me. But there again as I tell the kids I teach now, my main mission in life is to make kids life a misery. That I am bloody good at!

    I am teaching little ones now. Year 2 would you believe. After teaching all classes from Year 3 to Year 12 I have now gone down to the lowets common denominators.

    I am currently teaching at Bonville Public School. I have been an Assistant Principal at nambucca Heads PS and before that I was teaching PE, Maths and Careers at Orara High School which is near the Hoyts movie complex.
    The Army now has me as an Officer of Cadets and they have asked me to apply (whch is now in process) for a commission in the Reserves.

    Rugby is still one of my passions. I am playing in an over 35s team called the Woopi Wobbygongs. Our motto: “The older we get the better we were”. Last year I went to San Diego and played in an tournament there. It was a hoot especially when I backed up for a Russian team from Moscow anbd came off as an interchange, grabbed the water bottle and found out it was Vodka. Wow!

    Touch footy also comes into play. This is where my Rugby mates and I play against each other. Again good fun.

    The romance side of things, well just pretty ordinary. Was married for 13 years, got divorced last year but no kids. So now I am single and dangerous.

    OK. There is a brief rundown of what I have been up to. What is your story?

    Rys (Mr H)

  3. That was the part of the story I omitted. The part where I bumped into my year 6 teacher at Coffs Harbour airport, and wow, he remembers me. Weird!

    Thanks for the life story Rys – I didn’t think you’d recognise me, from memory I didn’t have a beard when I was in primary school. Maybe I’ll see you next time I’m up there.

  4. Question is Mr Herzig, Do u still have a copy of the VHS tape of us doing our “music video project” (Control), or the “Spice Wars” video, the LaBamba assembly, or anything from 1987? Would love a copy to archive, would be appreciated.

    Thanks, Anthony

  5. I could never holiday at a place called Safety Beach. I’d get kicked out for singing all day…
    “You can beach if you want to, you can leave your friends behind, and if you don’t beach or you don’t wanna beach then you’re no friend of mine…”

  6. Reading this post is like a really freaking odd episode of Twilight Zone… I keep pinching myself to make sure I am not dreaming… Is this for real??? By the time I got to the part where the 6th Grade teacher posts I almost fell off my chair!!! What the hell is Spice Wars??? And a man who calls himself TOAST???

  7. My reality is imploding in on itself and you’re asking me if it’s real??? Haha. All real, with the possible exception of comment 1… although I like the thought that Richard Branson reads my blog.

    Comment 2 really was my year 6 teacher (I subsequently told him my life story via email, a much more discreet medium).

    Comment 4 is from Anthony B who really was in my year 6 class, but I have no idea what “Spice Wars” was. Was that a play we did about the crusades? How politically current! Anthony please share, seeing we’re enjoying my own personal episode of the Twilight Zone.

    Comment 5, yes I know a very strange fellow who is known only as TOAST.

  8. Yeah, Crusades. I think that was the one. It was where we flipped the script on history and made Nero a fag (looking back on it now though, we probably hit the mark with that one). It was filmed behind our classroom under a tree that backed on to the back fence of where Arek lived.

    The facts and history of the Spice Wars was what Oscar Lai decided to commit to memory and recite back to the whole class (rocking back and forth while doing so) I now recall.

    Would love to score all the past school projects if I could (and if Gazo could return our Biblical Newspaper, that would be great as well). A friend of mine who is a teacher keeps everything she films of her students just in case one day they become famous, so I hope Mr H can help us out in that regard, although he hasn’t responded to the post above :-(
    To get those sort of things and master it, transfer it to DVD, author, chapter and menu it would be a trip.

    Sorry to those reading this and have no idea what im talking about, you have missed nothing, carry on as normal.

  9. Ah yes, it’s all coming back to me.

    And it’s Rojo who has our biblical newspaper (Moses wearing a Surf’s Up T-shirt while parting Red Sea, Gaza man beats wife to death with boiled cauliflower). I doubt we’ll ever see that again.

  10. Damn Rojo. I think you’re right, we’ll never see that again. We never got that interview with GOD either. Maybe next time

  11. In response to your request re tapes of all the absurd things we did in the name of education – as far as I know all those things were taped by the school and not me. I would suggest that somewhere in the religious catacombs of St Andrew’s lies the evidence of us learning by having fun. Something that I would suggest to some of the teacher’s of the school was as alien as Saddam Hussein working for the UN.
    Do you keep in touch with any of the other kids that were in our class?

  12. I don’t keep in touch with many these days, but for a while after year 12 I did see some of the guys – Arek Stanciewicz, Nathan Devine, Paul Sarno – I think those guys were all in our year 6 class? I’ve had the odd email out of the blue also from various people.

    Anthony, do you still see any of those guys? Arek went and got married in Poland didn’t he? Hey by the way, is your school teacher friend Sonja?

    In other news, I remember we used to tease Herzig for listening to Fleetwood Mac (Tango in the Night was the album) but I must admit to getting into the ol’ Mac from time to time these days. I’m so old.

  13. We all see each other at least once a month through parties, get togethers, BBQ’s, etc. Arek did indeed marry in Poland, but he and his wife now reside back in Marayong (Same street, different house). Everyone is doing fine, happy and successful in what they do.

    My school teacher friend is Rebel, not Sonja. The operative word here is “friend”.

    Fleetwood Mac are a great band. Stevie Nicks vocals on that album were so husky because she was so high on cocaine at the time. Lot of in-fighting in that group though, they still managed to knock out some stellar albums.

  14. Sordid pleasure
    May 9, 2006
    4:51 pm

    I remember you HP, you were that little tricky git that resided in those halcyon days of homosexual love, teenage agnst and culinary depravity. Strangely, I never really liked you because I never truly understood the essence of you, that spiritual, almost cathartic nonchalance that you so effortlessly exuded, at the time, it made me quiver. How I could have had now what you had at that age, something so irreverant, simplistic, almost retarded in its sincerity. Never the less, times change, people grow and now, I still dislike you to the wrotten core, betwixt between my need to psychologically get over an damage that you did to me at the time. Sayonara little child, should we meet one night I’ll just say to you, ‘Henry Tapia, this is your life’ and will duly inform you of all the useless drivel that passed between yourself and I …prank phonecalls always stay and I always remember. Your little schoolgirl crushes and sexual dreams inspire me to further fury ,for I know….I know that in your mind, you were always manipulating the being of the supple yr 12 schoolgirls that surrounded you. Should I name names ? Should I embarrass you ? au revoir les enfant. I’ll be back :)


  16. Sordid pleasure
    May 10, 2006
    12:00 am

    Your past will come back to haunt you through me … ‘it sucks to be you’ ….c’mon, sing it with me ‘it sucks to be you’

  17. It’s been quite entertaining reading the posts to your blog entry! I was actually going through the 2004 St Andrews year book to try and see what teachers were still teaching. Most of the ones that I was taught under are still there…but not many of the ones from your days. The only one I can recall is Stathopolous (off the top of my head). I remember history classes with Mrs Gazo and she fondly remembered you. :) Saying that you were “very smart” (if you know what I mean!) She even showed me a picture of a ‘endeavor-type’ ship which you drew (she brought it in), but I think it was a photocopy which you coloured in! I didn’t tell her that though, it would have shattered her! I should pay a visit into the school one of these days. Oh, I regularly see Mr and Mrs Arron shopping in Blacktown! Always nice to chat to them!

  18. OMG thanks for not telling her, she was so stoked about my picture of a 18th century tall ship. I never had the heart to tell her I photocopied it and coloured it in with pencils. And she told another guy off in my class because he copied my picture, even though all he really did was photocopy the same image and colour it. My colouring was better though. HA

  19. Well, the more I read what you guys are writing the more the memories come flooding back. Hey! I have just come back fro Europe and did the Western Front Tour in preparation for taking my troops there in 2007. I would be very happy to hear maore about what you blokes are doing. I mean – how fine and outstanding you lot have become as young citizens and leaders of this fine nation. Sorry! I still am a teacher and still tend to crap on as one. Incidentally, my kids in my Year 4/5 are having a ball also learning about the Spice Wars. I have told them about you lot. You have earned a laugh. By the way my nickname was not TOAST – it is Toss and that is another story.
    Rys (Mr H)