Friday, July 3, 2009

Customer service - a science or an art. Can it be taught???

Singapore airlines (SIA) has been discussed to a point of irritation during the last few months during my MBA. And yet I often reminisced – the airline must have done something right to have been adjudged the best airline for the last over 20 years. Even though I am yet to travel on SIA, I know what they must be doing to be where they are.

My recent to and forth journey to the US was on Virgin Atlantic and even while I was welcomed in person by Sir Richard Branson who suddenly appeared like a genie on the television screen, with his wavy hair and confidence (that would turn Don Juan in his grave) assuring me of Virgin’s commitment and endeavour to make my flight experience a memorable one, the promise crashed suddenly as if the negative G had completely taken over just before all my expectations drowned forever in the Atlantic.

This happened twice over--

Flight VS009 London-NewYork
It’s a short haul flight and flight stewards are in a hurry to get over with all the service. Even while I was sitting quite close to the pantry, I was – for some reason, one of the last one to be served. And when I was asked what I wanted for dinner, I wanted to know what the choices were.
“We have chicken and beef with pasta etc etc”
“May I have some chicken please”
“Sorry mate you are out of luck – we only have some beef left if you want to have”

Well…. I had no choice and even though being a Hindu, I eat beef – when I have to, I wondered, will I ever want to travel on this flight again?

Flight VS0046 NewYork-London
I had flown from Frisco to NY and waited 6 hours for this connecting flight and was tired (its not easy to travel between 3 time zones with a waiting of 6 hours in between). This time the cosmic intervention of God ensured that I got chicken. But my bad luck – I asked for a spare pillow because my lower back was hurting.
“We only have as many pillows as seats – can’t help”
“Are you sure that an aircraft that is carrying 400 passengers does not have a spare pillow”
“NO”

I did eventually travel all across the plane and counted 43 pillows that were strewn all over by guests who were not using those. I borrowed one easily.

CEO’s vision is of no consequence if the last person in the line does not understand it.
Commit only if you can service your commitment.
Mean what you say.
Be sensitive to your customer and if you can - consider him GOD.

Can any airline ever be as successful as SIA – I guess no…..
The Asian culture of care, respect, sensitivity is a genetic makeup that has been perfected over generations.

Why else has no western airline in the last 2 decades ever made the cut?

3 comments:

  1. Very well written brother.. it takes no MBA to find out whats not right in the "Value chain" - CEO promises but front staff doesnt deliver...

    One could write a book on Virgin aptly named " Memoirs of a cheesed off passenger"..

    Can read here as well www.gauravarora.co.uk/search/label/virgin

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  2. The amusing thing about this is that Virgin is 49% owned by Singapore Airlines...

    Mike

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  3. Very well written.
    Really, we must not commit what you can not deliver.

    Maninder SINGH

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Your comment isimmensely appreciated and will be published for a discussion - soonest. Thanks. manu