Have you been looking for a way to make your customer service better? Well, during a recent vacation in South Africa I received a request from my colleague to write a couple of blogs about marketing lessons/takeaways from international travel. In our house, we firmly believe that travel is a great learning experience and if my credit card award bill is anything to go by, we wholeheartedly embrace this learning medium.
Currently one of the cheapest ways to fly to South Africa from Seattle is via Dubai using Emirates Airlines. If you’re able to endure the 14 ½ hour flight just to get to Dubai, you’re more than halfway to your destination. It may seem idyllic that you’ll have 14 ½ hours of time to relax, watch movies, read your book, not read email, talk on the phone and so on but it gets old after about 7 hours of flying and realizing that you’re not even halfway to your destination!
This is how you do customer service in the travel industry.
That’s where crew at Emirates Airlines steps in. No, they won’t let you use the upstairs cabin to sleep in or stretch out in, but with their ready smiles and surprises they strive to make your flight pleasant. As I was travelling with my 10 year old daughter, I certainly appreciated the fact that they made a special fuss of the youngsters on the flight. It almost made me wish I was in that age bracket myself. The ‘goody’ bag, which many airlines give on international flights, was different. Not only did each child receive an animal themed fleecy blanket to snuggle up into but the reading material was very educational and easy to read. From origami, to world maps, word searches, sudoku and journals –there was something in it for all the children.
Once we settled into our flight and were relaxing, I noticed the flight attendants walking around the cabin with a Polaroid camera. I love the fact that Polaroid cameras are back in fashion and my children love it, too. They were stopping by each row and taking pictures of couples, families, babies and more. What a great memento for all of us to have!
As you can imagine on such a long flight, where 2 meals and a snack are served, one is bound to get quite hungry. I took a stroll down to the kitchen wondering what was on offer – IF anything was on offer. I was delighted to find quite an array of snacks free for the taking. Fresh fruit, additive free snacks and all kinds of chocolate both milk and dark. This brought to mind a previous experience with a British Airways flight about 5 years ago where I had a very different experience.
And this is how you don’t.
On that particular flight, a flight attendant wouldn’t part with a banana for my nut-allergic child. The child in question, despite an earlier request and a notation on her ticket, had been served a nut-filled breakfast. I couldn’t believe that I was having the conversation I had and fortunately I always travel with a backup and safe snacks for her. But NO! She wouldn’t part with a 19c banana because that was reserved for Business Class passengers. I was so incensed by the whole episode that even today I only fly BA if I have no alternative. They used to be on the top of my list, but are very definitely quite near the bottom of it now.
So, is this blog meant to be a promotion of Emirates Airlines and their amazing crew? No, not really, even though they do deserve the kudos. My point is more about customer service and delighting your customers with the little details they notice and remember. Those flight attendants could’ve gone to work to do a ‘job’ – much like you see on United Airlines (I don’t like them either). Instead, they went to work to delight their customers, and they succeeded on all levels. They made my and my daughter’s journey comfortable and fun for the 30 hours that we spent each way in the air. Would I fly with them again? Absolutely! But, could you just move South Africa a little closer to North America to shorten the journey? Thanks!