What Inaugural Flights can teach us about Exceptional Customer Service

I wasn’t one of the passengers on board the inaugural Qantas Perth to London direct flight on Saturday evening. I was at home following the historic journey from gate to gate and, like many, was excited to witness the milestone unfold for both Australian aviation history, and future tourism prospects in Western Australia. I also got to reflect back to my career journey thus far, having worked for the flying kangaroo at the turn of the current decade and was proud to see so many of my former colleagues on the TV, working at the departure gates of QF9.

But I was even more excited for another reason. Excited for every single one of the passengers who were on board. Why? Because I know what it feels like to be a passenger aboard an inaugural service. On 21 July 2016, I was lucky to be on Singapore Airline’s inaugural flight from Singapore to Düsseldorf aboard the new Airbus A350-900 (designed to compete with the Boeing 787).

A fully catered gate celebration at Singapore’s Changi Airport; gift packs upon boarding including a commemorative certificate signed by the Acting Senior Vice President of Flight Operations; dignitaries and media on-board and on arrival, and a water cannon salute as the aircraft taxied to the arrival gate at Düsseldorf were among the special treats given to all passengers. In summary, a real fuss was made and it was amazing!

The feeling of a real fuss is exactly what the passengers aboard QF9 from Perth to London were feeling between Saturday night and Sunday morning.

This fuss can teach us a lot about exceptional customer service. Whilst ‘inaugural’ is the term used to mark the beginning of an occasion, every day customers around the world begin their ‘inaugural’ journey with other product and service providers. As we’ve seen with both Qantas and Singapore Airlines, obsessing over customers, making a fuss and making them feel important are all easy things to do. So do other product and service providers do this with their customers when they embark on a journey with their brand? And, once they’ve embarked on that inaugural journey, how are they made to feel with each subsequent interaction that takes place – in some cases, over the lifetime of being a customer.

We currently see so many companies offer incentives for customers to move their business with them (something which is increasingly hard to do these days, given a financial incentive is not compelling enough to end a well established service relationship) however we don’t hear as much about that continual effort or celebration continuing once the customers return for repeat business or visitation. It can be something so simple like an app or online store that helps customers by remembering their credit card details for future transactions. But when one person checks-in to a hotel for repeated visits, the credit card is still asked for upon check-in. Even if the consumer law doesn’t allow hotels to retain credit card details on file, it is an example of a law or even a process which has been done for years, but is just not customer friendly.

In a few weeks, the hype of the inaugural Perth to London service will have settled down. In fact as I write this, the second flight will already be on its way. And whilst a media fanfare is only appropriate for the first journey, how will customers be treated and feel on-board QF9 in 12 months’ time? Treating all customers as V-I-P’s (or as Disney refer to them as Very-Individual-People) is an integral part of their business strategy. They make all children feel as if they are the hero – an action which means more to the parents than they could imagine.

So, some questions to consider and reflect to your organisational customer service?

  • What do you do for customers during their inaugural journey with your brand?
  • How do you make these customers feel days, weeks, months and years after their inaugural interaction with your brand?
  • Do you treat customers as very important people, or, very individual people?

Chris Smoje is a customer service speaker, trainer, facilitator and founder of the DIME™ Customer Service approach. Chris works with organisations and their people to develop a common interest and excitement about delivering exceptional customer service results: www.dimecustomerservice.com

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