EVERY business’ value proposition is created on the bedrock of alleviating ‘the pain’ of its customers.
Companies, therefore, envisage undertaking the onerous task of providing a consistent and unique offering that provides ongoing pleasant customer experiences.
In practical business life scenarios, corporate culture, customer service levels and their underlying practices differentiate companies from their competitors, especially if their prices are similar.
It is, therefore, imperative for every business to bear in mind that for every sale that they make, customers make a conscious decision of where to spend their hard-earned money, depending on their perception and experience with the company’s offerings.
In the normal course of every business operation, there arise delays, less than expected standards of operations, and a number of other incidences, which pose potential sources of conflict between the business and its customers.
This article discusses a few of them and also illustrates how a number of companies, including Emirates airlines, proactively address such instances.
Generally, in the aviation sector, for example, as every airline grows, the need arises for it to skillfully harness the trendy practice of overbooking.
Airline overbooking is a business model and practice based on probability, which is put in place to ensure that airlines minimise the risk of flying with empty seats and consequently, revenue losses.
Further, according to Societe Internationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques (SITA), an aviation communications and technology organisation, globally, checked luggage mishandling, delays and losses are a topical issue in airline business.
These account for an estimated 26 million suitcases going missing each year, with estimated costs amounting to $2.3 billion per year in recent years.
In the United Kingdom (UK)’s banking sector, for example, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) reveals that over 20,000 complaints are filed against some banking corporations.
Does it mean that all these institutions don’t have sound customer service systems? No, they do!
This makes it clear that a number of companies may have a dire need to harness proactive strategies to avert customer service pitfalls!
Following the Emirates Airline president Sir Tim Clark’s reaction to the United Airlines ordeal, in which a passenger, Dr Dao was violently dragged off an over-booked plane, about three months ago; I became keen to study Emirates Airlines corporate culture.
I was particularly fascinated by Sir Tim Clark’s sentiments: “We don’t go about our business in that way. It’s symptomatic of a corporate culture within that company from the board and chief executive downwards.”
Thankfully, three weeks ago, I was privileged to travel by Emirates on two long haul connection flights, where I purposely observed how the airline handles potential conflicts with their customers, for the sake of this column.
As I was preparing for my travel, I interacted with a bank customer service consultant.
Despite being aware that foreign exchange customers prefer US$100 to US$50 notes when converting big amounts like $2,000, he went ahead to give me the least plausible option, $50 notes, after waiting for one-and-half hours!
Imagine the consequences on such a business, of such a failure to proactively leverage it’s know- how to avert such an unpleasant customer experience!
On the other hand, Emirates airline is increasingly getting renowned as one of the global corporations that have substantially developed a great customer service culture that proactively anticipates hiccups in service delivery.
Imagine being treated the way the airline did to me, with an offer of an instant cash discount of K900 on the airfare and a choice of a preferred sitting position within the class, free WIFI internet and mobile phone connectivity on all the four flights.
This enabled me to constantly find out how my son who I had left recovering from a sudden illness, while on board throughout the journey!
Additionally, the airline gets in touch with you two days either way before the flight, to offer you a choice to check in, on the flight on-line!
That is a great customer experience!
During the last 50 minutes of the Dubai-Lusaka flight, I observed the airline’s, purser, Georges Zakaria, distributing apology cards.
What’s the fuss about those cards, I asked him?
Essentially, he was making apologies and assurances to respective passengers whose luggage had been left behind, besides undertaking to deliver each customer’s mishandled luggage to their door steps, once it arrived, at no additional cost.
What a practice!
What a way to pamper a customer!
In the absence of such action, no matter the cash discounts and in-flight hospitality and well-rehearsed customer service hospitality, it would have all been spoilt by news of respective customer luggage being left behind!
Mishandled luggage is such a big deal in airline travel business, that
United States (US) federal lawmakers have been contemplating enacting legislation that would compel airline operators to compensate customers if luggage is lost or delayed.
It is important to always bear in mind that it costs a lot more money for a company to acquire a customer than to retain them, due to advertising costs and the expense of sales calls.
An effective customer service function is therefore, not just about creating a sound delivery of a quality product or service, but should move on to institute systems that proactively anticipate pitfalls and take remedial measures to provide a consistent quality product and service experience for customers.
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The author is the Managing Consultant at GN Grant Business Consultant, a fellow of the Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountants (ZICA) and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), a Master of Business Administration (MBA) holder and a candidate for the Herriot Watt University (Scotland) Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)