Neville Hobson

Delight your customers, don’t just please them


Some interesting shifts in thinking are getting underway in the travel industry, according to AdAge, with British Airways in the forefront of looking at how they’re using technology in customer service and what they need to do to help their employees deliver outstanding service.

AdAge says that the airline is analysing the passenger data it gathers to gain actionable insights into making its customers’ experience more convenient and rich with value to them, presenting service-personalization to passengers in a way that impresses them.

Simon Talling-Smith, BA’s executive VP-Americas, paints a great picture of an ideal scenario and the real difficulty of execution:

[…] He said that on a flight in which the crew is aware that a passenger is flying business class for the first time, staff would welcome the customer, show her how to use her seat and then note how she reacted. In another scenario, the staff could identify a traveler who normally flies business but is on a personal vacation with his family in coach. The flight staff would thank him for flying with BA, maybe offer him a glass of champagne and make a fuss over him in front of his family, which always wins points.

[…] The introduction of onboard iPads has made sending such passenger-specific communication to in-flight personnel easier. But he noted that getting the staff to make use of the tablets is still a challenge. “Probably half of the messages don’t even get delivered,” he said.

Having the tech in place is one aspect of your jigsaw; another is enabling employees to understand and confidently use the tech tools and processes to deliver the service that you’re aiming to delight your customers with. Employee education, training and communication play big roles but not the only ones – employees have to see and believe that what they do in their customer interactions are meaningful to everyone (not just the customers), are genuine (not just a marketing gimmick) and, so, authentic.

It’s not a tall order if your leadership approach with your employees matches those attributes.

British Airways isn’t the only airline experimenting with tablets as tools that are planned to form part of an end-to-end customer service system based on understanding more about customer experiences – American Airlines is as well, as Pocket Lint reports, with Samsung Galaxy Notes rather than Apple’s iPads:

[…] “Flight attendants will use the Galaxy Note to record customer meal and beverage preferences, access customer information and identify high-value customers or customers requiring special assistance,” explains Samsung to Pocket-lint on the news. “Essentially, American Airlines has chosen the Galaxy Note to modernise their inflight services and better serve their passengers.”

The idea is that eventually the device will be used to take your order, or show the cabin crew you’ve just come from a long connecting flight.

[…] “Our flight attendants will have the most up-to-date customer information in the palms of their hands, allowing them to better serve our customers from boarding to deplaning,” said Lauri Curtis, American’s vice-president, flight service. “By giving a device to all of our active flight attendants we are better enabling our people to deliver an exceptional customer experience.”

I imagine American will have similar issues to resolve just as BA does.

And I wonder how further tech developments will fit into airlines’ customer service thinking  such as Boeing planes that are totally wired, as it were, for enabling in-flight mobile phone calls, on track for delivery in 2013.

A delight for some passengers, a horror to others – and everyone, including the airlines, want to be delighted…

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