With customer service being one of the leading factors for sustaining competitive advantage among companies and with social media invading every corner of the business world, it has become necessary, more than ever, for airlines to provide the most superb and impeccable service to every passenger, every time.
One unhappy passenger has the power to warn and discourage other potential customers from booking with your airline if it has failed to satisfy their expectations. Even worse, a swarm of unhappy and unsatisfied customers now have the power to drive any company bankrupt.
Passenger customer service is more important now than ever before.
Yes, it´s true, in the ever-growing, ever-changing aviation landscape the airlines that do not step up and delight their customers will be left behind.
Airlines must acknowledge the urgency of promoting excellence in customer service which in turn will directly affect profit, passenger retention, and overall airline growth.
How can your airline provide superb customer service to its passengers?
Keeping in mind that your goal is to keep clients and customers happy and more than satisfied with your services, you must focus all of your attention on your customers.
Airline companies must create and promote a customer-centric culture.
Let’s start by defining what customer-centric culture is.
A customer-centric culture does not only mean providing good customer service and fair treatment to customers. This is good, and necessary, but it encompasses more than that. Customer-centricity seeks to study, analyze, and keep high-value customers to increase profit and customer retention by providing support, communication, and the best experience for the customer throughout the whole purchasing process (awareness stage, purchase stage, and post-purchase stage.)
This leads us to the next question...
How can airlines create and promote a customer-centric culture?
Here are 5 essential steps to consider:
1. Focus on the passenger’s wants and needs and develop services around those
In other words, see things from a customer’s perspective. What would you expect? How would you like to be treated? What would make you never want to change services? Which would be some suggestions you would make to your own company? What type of airline would you like to be flying on on your next vacation? These are just some questions that you could ask yourself in order to appreciate the customer’s view. Having answered those questions and having seen things as a customer would, develop new or adjusted services around the information you obtained.
2. Evaluate yourself: What do customers think about you and your services?
It is pointless to keep offering your services if you don´t know what the majority of your customers think about them. This includes before-and-after service communication, feedback requests, and suggestions. Customers will always be more than happy to point out things that need to be improved and to congratulate you for what they loved about your services. This compliments the first step, helping you focus on customers´ suggestions, wants and needs.
3. Promote and encourage the sharing of customer information and feedback among departments in the company
In many companies, communication among different departments is one of the biggest problems. But, a company that is to succeed must overcome this obstacle. Feedback obtained by a given department will be useful for others as well in order for a company to provide the ultimate service for its customers. It is therefore necessary to promote and encourage healthy feedback and information sharing among departments.
4. Apply changes to the customer service platform based on the client's´ feedback, suggestions, and information obtained
All the above given steps are useless unless something is done about them. Changes must be made in every aspect of the issues you have identified, from the personnel to the customer-service policies. Your airline company must be able to put all of its newly developed and adjusted services (based on the client's wants and needs) to work. Once they have been set active, changes in customer satisfaction will start coming to light.
5. Motivate company members by promoting prizes and recognitions for outstanding employees
Recognition will motivate company members to achieve personal success. By recognizing outstanding employees, company members will seek to surpass not only their own level of professionalism and excellence, but also that of other employees ahead of them. This, in turn, will promote an increase in success on customer satisfaction.
Airlines must form greater emotional connections with customers.
First of all, why is this so important? Keeping passengers and being their preferred travel provider is what every airline should aim at. Attracting new clients is pointless if they will request your services just once or twice and then change your airline's services for the services of another airline, and even worse, post negative feedback on your airline (which, with the help of social media, will spread faster than any epidemic).
Studies show that a 2% growth in customer retention has the same effect as cutting operational costs by 10%. So if you didn't believe us before, keeping customers is vital. How then, can your airline achieve this? Airlines achieve this by forming hard-to-break relationships and emotional connections with customers. This includes points previously mentioned, such as keeping constant communication with clients before, during, and after the purchasing process, asking for feedback and suggestions, applying changes based on those suggestions, and letting customers know that their feedback and suggestions have been taken into consideration. But it is more than that. Forming emotional bonds with customers can be compared to making friends. There are some steps to follow:
1. Get to know your customer.
If you want to make good friends with another person, you must get to know your friend. This is no different. A company must get to know their customers. In this case, airlines must find out what their clients like the most, what kind of services they prefer, what little details would make them happy, etc.
In order to achieve this, your airline must get close to clients, interact with them, listen to them, and accept suggestions, reprimands, or complaints. Remember, the client is always right! If your company is able to provide this, clients will feel cared for, which is the first step to forming closer bonds with them.
2. Make your customer’s whims and expectations your priority.
After you have gotten to know your clients on a deeper level, you will be able to tell what their whims, preferences and expectations are. Now it's time to do something about them. Little details drive clients closer to companies and create greater emotional bonds between them. Try to appeal to as many clients as you can by implementing reforms in customer service that will make passengers feel that the whole airline is all about them!
3. Give your company a personality.
This is the final step, in which, just as in a friendship, your company will interact with customers by sharing information, good news, sales, excellent opportunities, facts, useful data, and much more through social media, updates, and any personal touches you think they would enjoy. This will give your company a voice. The main purpose of all these things is to let customers know that your company cares about them and to make them feel proud that they are part of your airline.
Although this looks as an overwhelming task, it is all based on a simple truth: it is passengers that will make your airline succeed.
Delight your passengers, and they will stay; disappoint them, and they will leave.. If you are able to surpass clients’ expectations for good, then you have achieved it all!