Concept of service

July 4, 2007 at 9:08 am 7 comments

Air Blue is celebrating 3 years of service. The question is what kind of service? I remember how delighted I was when Air Blue first began operations. Friendly, pleasant, efficient young women attending to passengers during the check-in process and the on board flight service. After years of grumpy, not-very-pleasant-to-look-at national airline crew, we now had this refreshing change. The fact that they used technology (handhelds) for checking in passengers, was a bonus.

The level of onboard flight service was and is still very good. However, my impression of Air blue changed last week when my team and I had to fly to Lahore. We decided not to fly PIA because it has bec3 years of Air Blueome standard for PIA flights to be 5 or 6 hours behind schedule – and we didn’t really have time to waste. Who does? The Air Blue flight was scheduled for 1 pm so we got there at 11:30 a.m., checked in and were told that the flight was going to be 15 – 20 minutes late. Then began the long wait. Passengers constantly asked when boarding would begin but no straight answer was forthcoming. Nor were any announcements made.

It was only when some passengers became “loud” – no it wasn’t me I promise you – that Air Blue finally admitted that they had cancelled the flight and passengers now had two choices – we could either be transferred onto the 7 pm Air Blue flight or we could have our tickets cancelled, and purchase a PIA ticket. They would not assist with the transfer to PIA – that was our problem.

All of us were marched to the Arrivals hall where we first collected our luggage. We then queued up outside at the Air Blue desk where we either booked ourselves on the 7 pm flight or applied for a refund. Some passengers said they didn’t want a refund, that they just wanted a transfer onto the next PIA flight. The response from the Air Blue staff was they they could not assist in transferring passengers to any other flight other than Air Blue. No lunch or refreshment was provided to those who waited (such a contrast from when a friend and I were flying out of Auckland and Qantas couldn’t accommodate us due to a glitch in our visas. They assisted us in getting onto an Air New Zealand flight, took care of us, and were so helpful that despite the long wait, we left feeling well disposed towards all the airlines involved).

My team and I live in Karachi so we rang for a car, went to have a late lunch nearby and returned to the airport around 5:30 pm to check in all over again. But there were passengers from Hyderabad and some who had come in from international destinations. They just waited at the domestic terminal until it was time to check in. Many were heard to say that they would not fly Air Blue again.

Flight delays can and do happen – sometimes it is unavoidable but shouldn’t airlines have a strategy for handling these delays? Announcements, refreshments, handling of passengers so that they feel well looked after, etc etc. Or is that not part of our airline service culture?

Entry filed under: Posts.

A lack of confidence An eyesore, a hazard, a necessary evil?

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kinkminos  |  July 4, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    The sad part is, it’s SO EASY to make a potentially irate customer (or even a group of them) feel good (or at least better). All it requires is a little attention, some well-rehearsed politesse, and the simple gesture of making them feel that they are considered important and valuable as customers.

    F**k-ups are bound to happen… in anybody’s business. And the average punter expects it to happen sooner or later. All the punter wants is to be made to feel that somebody gives a damn.

    That is what this whole “service culture” crap boils down to: “Have a nice day” with a plastic-fantastic painted on smile. And it WON”T get any better than that. (But I guess when you’re tired and hungry and angry and getting late, plastic-fantastic will do).

  • 2. Jehan  |  July 4, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Does it have to be ‘plastic-fantastic’? Can it not be real concern? Can the service provider not put himself/herself in the shoes of the customer? It can happen if a person feels a sense of ownership for the company they work for and care about its image and the service it offers.

  • 3. kinkminos  |  July 4, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    I agree 99.99% (less 0.01% just in case I’m wrong 🙂

    Ownership is key. I think the bigger the organisation and the wider its scope of operations, the harder it is to instill a culture of genuine (real) concern for the well-being of a customer.

    Firstly, it has to flow from the top. If the members of the top management of a company respect its employees and prove to its employees that they really care for the happiness and satisfaction of their customers (rather than simply accepting their money for services rendered) then there is a sliver of a chance of something approaching real customer service.

    I won’t go into over talked about concepts of suitable recruitment, and service-personnel training vaghaira vaghaira. A “culture” of service is probably the hardest thing for any company to achieve. Flying a plane, cooking biryani, accepting a phone-chip form… these are easy.

    At the end of the day it is “people” who have to deal with the issues not some impersonal service manual/handbook (virtual or hard copy).

    The service provider as a corporation is nothing but a nebulous entity.

    The service provider as a frontline rep of that nebulous entity may or may not give a damn about me or my gripe or the fact that I’m being delayed, or my food is not hot.

    Anyway, my sympathies are with you. We’ve all been in similar situations, and all this attempted rationalisation of mine doesn’t make me feel any better about receiving this kind of treatment.

  • 4. kinkminos  |  July 4, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    That irritating emoticon above was not my idea. I just put in a colon and a closing paren and the virtual gurus of wordpress decided to liven(?) up my smile.

    I was going to add another smile here but it would prob end up looking like that scary yellow monster above.

  • 5. Vickram Crishna  |  July 5, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    Easiest thing in the world is imagining that organisations are made for people with goodwill towards all and peace on earth. The reality is a little different.

    As managers, it is the hardest thing in the world to give up one’s ego, avoid giving ‘commands’ and to engage one’s staff in constructive work. Far more so when the environment is riven with and driven by greed, making it very hard too for said employees to see the bright side for their customers, beyond their own narrow needs.

    Just look at the way the airlines business has changed in barely over two decades! Once great airlines have either vanished or are on the chopping block, and the biggest company in the business doesn’t run a single aircraft (it leases them to the airlines that fly them).

    The air business is still learning to handle change, and airlines that sought to leverage the cracks but have not understood (internalised at the operational level) what has happened to the good ole days when people were grateful to be allowed on your aircraft. And if they were lucky, to have their check-in bags delivered to the destination on time.

  • 6. kinkminos  |  July 5, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    hey like isn’t that kinda sorta like what i said? but yer did say it sorta kinda better than me

  • 7. Jawwad, Desi Back to Desh  |  July 7, 2007 at 9:46 am

    Airblue should take a look at jetblue (one of the co owners at airblue) and pick a lesson or two.

    Jetblue chief executive publicly apologized for cancellation delays in peak holiday season that led to thousands of passengers stranded across the US. And then stepped down from the role of a full time chief executive. And jetblue service is still a few notches above airblue


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