thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Make Good News Better

By on December 10, 2008

Great organizations are always inventing new ways to make customers' experiences more valuable. South African Airways focuses on higher performance by looking at each element of its service from the customer's viewpoint.

For example, SAA prints letters from its customers with compliments or questions in its in-flight magazine, Sawubona. Not unusual. However, it answers each letter with a thank-you or further information from an SAA employee. How do you think that makes the writer feel? Fantastic! Why not take good news and make it better by responding to customers not only with appreciation, but by showing how they acted on their comments.

SAA apparently believes in transparency and educating its passengers. In a recent issue of the magazine it explained the autopilot mechanism. From that article, I learned that the autopilot uses motion sensors and a gyroscopic device, which are connected to a computer. Messages are sent to operate the aircraft's control surfaces. Once those surfaces are moved, a message is sent back to the computer confirming the movement. All of this controls components, such as the auto throttle, but the pilots can see all of these movements as they happen. Autopilot even sets optimum cruising altitude and can calculate the best point to start descending the aircraft.

Autopilot reduces the workload for pilots, but they can set the parameters that they want and they are aware of all of the changes as they are being made by the computer. They are still in control and don't have time to work a crossword puzzle, in case you were worried. The remarkable dimension of this article is that SAA's employees were customer-focused to the point that they wanted their passengers to be educated about how the aircraft worked and to be reassured of their safety. It was refreshing to me that they thought enough about their customers to proactively share this information with them.

Finally, they installed a camera to show passengers the landing and takeoff. Again, this is not unusual for most airlines today. However, the camera was on the tail of the plane in order to show the entire plane and exterior during takeoff and landing, rather than just a bottom-of-the-plane view of only the runway. What a nice feature. I felt like I was practically driving the equipment myself.

Because of this performance, South African Airways has deservedly won numerous 2008 awards, including CBC African Business Awards Airline of the Year, World Travel Awards Africa's Leading Airline, Weekly Globe Awards Best Airline to Africa (17th consecutive year), and OAG Best Airline Based in Africa (10th consecutive year). The in-flight magazine, undoubtedly, is simply one of many aspects that they are doing extremely well.

There are hundreds of ways to improve the customer's experience. Organizations that outperform are always thinking like their customers. They are using their creativity and are proactively asking what customers want to know and see and what they will appreciate. Customers really care about the attention that their service providers give them and become more engaged and committed as companies continue to give them things they never even asked for.


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