AMAZING Virgin Blue email marketing error: congrats – you’re Gold. No you’re not.

virginblue-ourmistake

My strong dislike of Virgin Blue just ratcheted up a notch to “will avoid flying with them at any cost”. I received an email from Virgin Blue last night congratulating me on achieving Velocity Gold frequent flyer membership, only to receive another one an hour later saying “you do not qualify for this upgrade. Please disregard”.

The actual emails are after the jump.

Admittedly, I was surprised that I had qualified for Gold membership because I try to avoid flying Virgin Blue if I can and have only flown with them a few times in the past year (no alternative flights available). I loathe their too-cool-for-school flight attendants who tell tired and irritating jokes over the PA, and snap their fingers in front of your face if you’re not paying attention to the inflight safety instructions that you’ve seen 400 times before (yes, this actually happened to me.) I may be turning into a grumpy old man, but I like to be treated like a paying customer, not a naughty schoolboy, so I always try to fly Qantas if I can.

The email I got from Virgin last night told me that although I hadn’t qualified for Gold status, I came close, so they were giving it to me anyway and this would provide me with automatic Virgin Blue lounge membership. My thought process was: “hmm… that’s interesting. Maybe I might consider flying Virgin Blue slightly more often if I get to use their lounge before flights” (as this is the other reason I fly Qantas: very cheap Qantas Club membership through PBL Media’s corporate membership.)

Here’s the email:


Hi Daniel Velocity Membership Number: xxxxxxxxxxxx
We’ve got a treat for you – a free upgrade to Velocity Gold! Given you came so close to making it on your own, we wanted to say thanks so much for your ongoing commitment to the Virgin Blue Group, we really love having you around.
vel_card_gold

To find out what’s in store for you over the next 12 months, please keep reading.

Perks when travelling.

When you next fly with the Virgin Blue Group, we’ll make sure you’re treated like a VIP.

  • It starts with free Lounge membership, so you can catch up on work, relax and escape the airport crowds.
  • As before, you can breeze right through the airport with priority check-in.
  • You now get up to 32kg of checked baggage at no cost.
  • Plus, two personalised baggage tags (coming soon to your letterbox) and more.

If you’re already a member of The Lounge, naturally Virgin Blue will automatically refund the balance of your unused membership. Please allow up to 60 days for your refund to be finalised.

Easier to earn Points.

Being Gold you now earn 40% more Points for every dollar you spend or miles flown than Red, and can collect more Status Credits than everbefore

Here to help you

If there’s anything you need to know, velocityrewards. com.au/gold is a great source of useful information. Shouldyou prefer to chat, simply call 13 18 75 in Australia or +61 2 8667 5924 if calling internationally (if the line’s busy, rest assured you’ll jump straight to the head of the queue – just another little Gold benefit our Members enjoy).

The Velocity Team.

How to keep your perks.

It’s as simple as flying with the VirginBlue Group and collecting 50,000 Status Credits by your next Review Date (see your new card for details).

World’s favourite 2009!

We took home six Freddie Awards – including Program of the Year- as voted by the people we care about most, frequent flyers like your good self.

Is this you?

Are your details up to date? Log in to Your Account to check – we wouldn’t want you missing out on your Gold Status accessories.




vel_footer_09

And then an hour later, this one arrives:

follow_up_header_oo_text

Hi
Daniel
Velocity Membership Number:
xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Oops! You’ve received our previous email titled “You’ve
turned gold” by mistake, please disregard the free upgrade
communication as unfortunately you do not qualify for that
upgrade.

We also note that you have elected to opt out of Velocity
Communications. Please accept our sincere apologies for sending
these emails to you without your consent. Unfortunately the email
was extended to our entire database by mistake.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Warm regards,

The Velocity Team


vel_footer_09

While I can sympathise with Virgin Blue’s plight a bit (extending free lounge membership to their ENTIRE FREQUENT FLYER BASE would be a very expensive mistake), I can only say that their handling of the correction is attrocious. It doesn’t take a marketing expert to know that you don’t tell customers how much you value them, only to turn around just long enough for the warm glow to have sunk in, and then tell them that you don’t really value them that much after all.

I think at the very least a token restitution should have been made by Virgin Blue for the mistake — an allocation of frequent flyer points for each member perhaps, or some bonus status credits to help all those basic members a small way along the track towards becoming the gold member that they thought they already were — for a moment.

One wonders also what spam and trade practices laws they’ve tripped by sending out an (incorrect) offer to their entire email base, including people who have asked not to receive Virgin Blue frequent flyer emails.

All I can say is: epic fail.

Mumbrella has a great post on this debacle with some interesting debate too: Airline blunder upgrades every passenger

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14 Replies to “AMAZING Virgin Blue email marketing error: congrats – you’re Gold. No you’re not.”

  1. Interesting, as I received the same e-mail communications (however my e-mail with the retraction was a little shorter as I haven't opted out of e-mail communications).

    It did amaze me that nothing was offered for such a massive mistake from a company that has done a great marketing job in the past. I would have thought maybe a voucher for a free 1 time lounge entry may have been a nice gesture – as this seems the major benefit of Gold membership. This I think may have relieved the sour taste left from the experience.

  2. Interesting, as I received the same e-mail communications (however my e-mail with the retraction was a little shorter as I haven't opted out of e-mail communications).

    It did amaze me that nothing was offered for such a massive mistake from a company that has done a great marketing job in the past. I would have thought maybe a voucher for a free 1 time lounge entry may have been a nice gesture – as this seems the major benefit of Gold membership. This I think may have relieved the sour taste left from the experience.

  3. Agreed John. It really was a massive mistake. If I was in Virgin Blue marketing I think I would have escalated it immediately to CEO level and figured out what could be done to soften the blow for members. I agree that a single entry pass to the lounge would have been a good idea — Qantas does this for anyone who achieves silver membership, which is reportedly 40% of passengers flying with Qantas at any one time.

  4. Agreed John. It really was a massive mistake. If I was in Virgin Blue marketing I think I would have escalated it immediately to CEO level and figured out what could be done to soften the blow for members. I agree that a single entry pass to the lounge would have been a good idea — Qantas does this for anyone who achieves silver membership, which is reportedly 40% of passengers flying with Qantas at any one time.

  5. I got the exact same pair of emails – but the kicker is, I've flown on Virgin Blue only once in my life, from Sydney-Melbourne over a year ago!. Well, okay, I also flew back to Sydney with them – but still, being upgraded to Gold status for barely three hours of flying in economy made me think that Virgin Blue was the world's 'easiest' airline (sorta like the Frequent Flyer equivalent of a cheap date).

    Being told shortly afterwards that I was NOT in fact Gold was worthy more of a bemused laugh than a tear. But a major marketing cock-up? Oh yes indeed!

  6. I got the exact same pair of emails – but the kicker is, I've flown on Virgin Blue only once in my life, from Sydney-Melbourne over a year ago!. Well, okay, I also flew back to Sydney with them – but still, being upgraded to Gold status for barely three hours of flying in economy made me think that Virgin Blue was the world's 'easiest' airline (sorta like the Frequent Flyer equivalent of a cheap date).

    Being told shortly afterwards that I was NOT in fact Gold was worthy more of a bemused laugh than a tear. But a major marketing cock-up? Oh yes indeed!

  7. So the people who already dislike VirginBlue dislike them a little more, and people like me who are quite happy with them (particularly after my recent experience with V Australia) have a little chuckle at the thought of the meltdown that must have happened in their office over this, and carry on being quite happy with them. And nothing changes.

    Bear in mind it was probably caused by something like an incomplete SQL query on the part of one hapless IT guy. I can imagine him walking through the office, eyes fixed to the floor avoiding scathing glares from marketing when he shows up on Monday. Here's hoping he managed to get at least a bit of sleep over the weekend.

  8. So the people who already dislike VirginBlue dislike them a little more, and people like me who are quite happy with them (particularly after my recent experience with V Australia) have a little chuckle at the thought of the meltdown that must have happened in their office over this, and carry on being quite happy with them. And nothing changes.

    Bear in mind it was probably caused by something like an incomplete SQL query on the part of one hapless IT guy. I can imagine him walking through the office, eyes fixed to the floor avoiding scathing glares from marketing when he shows up on Monday. Here's hoping he managed to get at least a bit of sleep over the weekend.

  9. Loosen up! At least someone keeps it real and fight for fair competition, in fact I reckon you prob work for another airline and they wouldnt hir u at V as u have a big pole stuck up your flight path! Cillax man Virgin rules.

  10. Hi

    I had a ‘virgin’ moment … well it was like all day … recently getting caught at Sydney. No explanation and worse no follow up. They seem to be complaaint resistant. If their service ethic is like this then exactly how careful are they on the bigger issues. My moment might have been linked to aircraft availability … which suggests that the fleet is not getting routine maintenance and upgrading … there has to be some real worries about a business that simply does not care and gets this sort of commentary
    I just drove across Australia .. it was sure slow but at least there was some awareness about all the issues associaated with the exercise
    no longer a virgin
    Stephen

  11. Its interesting to know  that a free membership would temp us to fly again with Virgin Blue.  Maybe they should try marketing it for real and maybe it will result with more sales.

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