Customer Service with Flying Colours
Michael Andreou, Singapore Airlines
In my current role as Customer Services Officer (Customer Experiences) for Singapore Airlines in London, I’m often asked for my golden tips on how to provide the high quality service that the airline is renowned for. In my eyes, there are no hard and fast rules to follow but it is always important to treat your customers as a priority. I have always remembered the mantra that was instilled in me on my very first training day for the airline – that you really do have to feel it from within. This insight has stayed with me and affects all of my day-to-day customer interactions, whether I’m serving a regular passenger or royalty.
In my 27 years at Singapore Airlines, one thing I’ve learnt is that every customer is different. You can’t and shouldn’t ever assume that customers think and behave the same. I can honestly say that working for an airline means you interface with people from many different walks of life and the skill is to tailor your customer experience specifically to each individual you meet.
Experience has taught me it is important to gauge the customer’s mood. Once you assess how they are feeling, you know how to alter your dealing with them. As service providers, we must always remember to be courteous, polite and to really listen to those we serve. Are they having a bad day? What’s their body language like? Have they just had a bad experience at check-in? These are all questions that we must consider from afar and make judgements on before the point of interaction has even begun.
But things aren’t always straightforward. In my profession, it’s fair to say a lot of customers are feeling in good spirits – they’re about to go on holiday after all! But just like in any other industry, stressful situations or problems can arise. And when they do, it’s people like us, at the frontline of customer service, that are the point of contact for such customer feedback. When this happens, I find the most important thing is to identify the exact cause of a customer’s complaint. It may sound daft but it isn’t always what they are telling you and some reading between the lines may be required. Understanding this though, means you can start to see how issues can be mitigated and never forget that apologising and empathising throughout the process goes a long way to helping too.
We conducted some research into customer service needs recently and identified that above everything, consumers wanted a ‘human’ customer service experience and that so-called customer-first businesses were letting themselves down with ‘robotic’ responses to negative customer experiences. Of 2,000 respondents, clarity and transparency came high on the list of priorities of what customers wanted from service providers, with 75 per cent of customers appreciating an explanation for a problem. 64 per cent meanwhile appreciated an apology after bad service and 37 per cent wanted personalised service, reaffirming that the ‘human touch’ went a long way.
So, make sure to be honest and don’t overpromise or cover the truth with deliberately obscure language – if something cannot be done, disclose it openly and then recount why a certain path can’t be taken. Always offer some way of making the situation better and remember – though you might not always get a compliment, it is still possible to overcome a negative experience for a customer if you can assuage a difficult situation.
Offering the best customer service experience – both in the air and on the ground – is extremely important to Singapore Airlines. We are put through thorough training courses so that we’re prepared for any situation: Our cabin crew are trained beyond the industry standard to ensure we have the best service in the sky. We’re shown different customer scenarios and how to handle difficult situations through role-play and encouraged to go beyond the call of duty where it’s needed. Despite this, you need to find your own take on your service; for me, I try to stay positive and remember that every negative can be turned into a positive – this is what I thrive on!
Ultimately, you have to remember to gain the trust of your customer, maintain your sense of professionalism and ensure you are responding to specific customer needs. With this mindset, whether your customer is a VIP or not, they will always feel first class.