The airline industry faces many challenges, from a growing number of low cost challengers to fluctuating fuel prices, but major carriers have always differentiated themselves with a high quality customer experience.
That is, until now. 2017 has seen established airlines around the world receive negative media coverage for their treatment of customers, putting their major value proposition in jeopardy and giving their competitors an even further boost.
It may be easy to blame a single flight attendant or reservations agent each time someone makes a complaint, but customer service is dictated by much broader powers across the organisation.
A company’s approach to customer service is defined by three pillars: boardroom attitudes, employee empowerment, and training.
Buy-in starts in the boardroom
A company’s attitude towards customers is a reflection of its leadership, and excellent customer service is the product of its internal culture. If board members do not make customer experience a priority in the boardroom, customer-facing teams will simply do the same and focus on KPIs that match the business’ ambition.
a company’s attitude towards customers is a reflection of its leadership
Some employees may always go out of their way to help customers but the harsh truth is that these people are rare.
Yuko Yoshimura, director of IT innovation and strategy at All Nippon Airways’ (ANA’s), summed this sentiment up neatly: “If a customer feels that [we] value their time, there is joy that they chose ANA”. This attitude has shaped ANA’s approach for years, and has resulted in numerous awards and accolades, including the 2017 SKYTRAX award for “Best Airline Staff in Asia”.
Employees must be empowered to help
It is one thing to want to deliver better customer service and another to put words into action. Customer service teams need the resources and autonomy to help people, otherwise they will simply be a human face putting a robotic customer policy into action.
customer service teams need the resources and autonomy to help people
This includes providing service teams with technologies that put customer data at their fingertips so they can gain a complete view of each person they serve and offer them a more personalised service.
To complement this, representatives could be given a small discretionary budget to resolve individual cases. Regardless of the approach, the outcome is a more engaged and motivated customer-facing workforce.
Make customer service a priority via training
This is the self-service age, which means any customer who takes the time to speak with a service representative is dealing with a complex issue and exhausted all other options.
customer service is not about fulfilling every request and solving every problem
Service teams must be trained to add value in these cases and think beyond the hard facts on their screen. Regardless of the outcome, customers need to feel everything has been done to help them.
Customer service is not about fulfilling every request and solving every problem. While ideal, this simply is not possible. It is about putting the customer service and making a good impression on them.
After all, a brand’s reputation is the sum of every impression its employees have made on customers over time, and a consistently positive approach will add up to much more than a few wins along the way.