Surf Air has been called “a disruptor of tomorrow” by Fast Company, and “the future of flying” by Forbes, but when it comes to winning customers over, this startup has reached the stratosphere. Launched in 2013 as the first ever all-you-can-fly airline, Surf Air’s members fly up and down the California coast with ease for one monthly subscription fee.
“Time is the new commodity,” explained Justin Hart, vice president of member acquisition. Surf Air saves members time by cutting back on the pain associated with air travel. Members book flights from their smartphones in less than a minute, arrive at the airport as little as fifteen minutes before departure time, skip traditional security lines, and enjoy friendly concierges who greet them in the terminal to handle baggage check and other details. “Ultimately at the end of the day, we’re giving our members their time back,” said Jeff Potter, president and CEO.
Surf Air’s flight plan has grown to 2,300 members with no signs of slowing down. The startup is expanding its fleet of planes from 11 to 65 by 2021, and has begun to add weekend leisure trips to its schedule of business-oriented weekday flights. Which is why Surf Air turned to Salesforce. “Our airline is built around our customers’ needs,” said Hart. “Salesforce helps us keep track of all of our relationships and manage our guest list.”
Using the world’s #1 CRM system, reps are able to set up test flights for prospects so they can experience the ease of flying Surf Air firsthand. Then they follow up with customised emails sent directly from Salesforce. Often referred to as the “Uber of the skies,” Surf Air also uses Salesforce to find the right audience in the specific geographic markets it serves, tracking flight preferences once members join. This level of personalised service leads to both winning, and keeping, loyal customers.
Customer happiness is paramount to Surf Air’s mission. The company wins customer love with an innovative offering backed by outstanding service. “We are a membership club that happens to fly airplanes,” Potter explained. Passengers on Surf Air flights enjoy BMW-designed leather seats, plenty of legroom, and free Wi-Fi. But they also enjoy something possibly even more rare and valuable than personal space on a plane: a sense of community among its members. “What we’re providing is the interaction you get on the airplane,” Potter said. “At the end of last year, 11% of our members had begun a business deal with other members on the plane. Flying Surf Air is unlike flying traditional economy or even business class.”
Potter and Hart said they won’t grow the business without protecting that community feel. To wit, more than half of Surf Air’s new members come from member referrals, and the company has started hosting member nights that are more like networking mixers than hard-sell opportunities. “There are no sales happening at these events — the members get to engage with each other and with us,” Potter said.
Salesforce helps Surf Air’s membership teams manage relationships with current and prospective members with the right mix of automation and personal touch. Pardot lets the company deliver different campaigns and interactions to prospects based on their histories. A new visitor to Surf Air’s website would, for example, have a different experience than a referral who’d just completed a buddy flight. Surf Air’s custom Salesforce workflow also leverages Pardot automation to keep customer information and important tasks top of mind, while still allowing plenty of room for personalised, premium member service. That workflow also includes using Data.com to find new prospects in targeted areas along the West Coast, and then creating and nurturing new leads in Pardot to qualify and hand off to sales teams via Sales Cloud. And third-party AppExchange solutions like DocuSign make it easy to build new functionality into the platform as the company’s needs evolve. “What’s great is that I built that workflow,” Hart said. “I didn’t have to go out to a tech developer to have them build that. That flow is all there — anyone on my team could have built that.”
Potter and Hart like to tell stories of how Surf Air has changed its members’ lives. There’s the executive who finally made it to his son’s science fair thanks to the San Diego to San Francisco route. There’s the client who added his daughter to his membership so she could fly home from college to see him. And there’s the member who chartered a flight so he could marry his bride on a Surf Air plane. These tales abound, and they all carry the same message: Surf Air is changing lives by changing the way people fly. “Our customers love us,” said Hart. “And Salesforce is an important part of that.”