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Consultants Report What Airlines Should Do To Better Serve And Improve Earnings

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC®) asked its global membership to ask their clients what the airlines, showing improving profits, can do to mutually improve service and earnings. "It's time to stop whining," says SAC CEO Alan Weiss, PhD "and return to providing value and not merely charge for a pillow."

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive/career coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a boutique talent management consulting and leadership coaching firm in San Francisco, California.

He offers a few insights:

According to Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, "Air travel should be fun and accessible to everyone. There is one key to profitability and stability during either a boom or bust economy: employee morale. In other words, creating a work environment that motivates and satisfies employees is a key factor in achieving profitable growth and competing in the long-term."

Dr. Brusman points out, "Southwest is a great example of how an innovative company continues to grow its business because they have a commitment to their customer. They respect the customers' time and money by having on-time arrivals and departures. They show the customer love by cultivating an entire company devoted to serving them. Not only does this mindset create a positive atmosphere for the customers, but their efficient, communication-focused approach has resulted in fewer lost bags, fewer delays, and, inevitably, fewer complaints.

Dr. Brusman further notes, "Southwest's management has created a culture where employees are treated with respect and are empowered to make decisions. The tedious experience of flying on the so-called legacy airlines might shift into better customer service and improved earnings by learning from Southwest's employee and customer love story."

"In these days when travelers are bracing for the news that the airlines are adding a surcharge for the in-flight air they breathe, savvy service providers can create raving fans," says John Carroll, growth consultant and president of Unlimited Performance in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

"Service with a genuine smile has proven to be a rare treat for people away from home. It costs nothing and adds to the bottom line," Carroll says. "Ticketing and boarding specialists as well as on-board hosts and attendants who smile and truly enjoy making others comfortable by responding promptly and positively to their needs and requests can be the top profit drivers of any airline, large or small. Travelers made to feel that they are that particular airline's guests may not be able to tell you why they insist on a particular brand but they will.

"Earning such loyalty starts by putting the right people in front-line service roles, treating them exceptionally well as the heroes they can and should be and giving them the tools and authority they need to be, as Ritz-Carlton puts it, ‘ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.'" Carroll adds, "Airlines that consistently demonstrate the ability to transform the on-board experience from ordeal into oasis will win the day."

Phil Symchych is an expert in business growth and president of Symco & Co. located in Regina, Canada. "Airlines can improve both customer service and profitability by focusing on the customer experience, eliminating the cost minimizing decisions from the accounting department, and stopping their lazy copying of ridiculous competitors' practices, which quickly make ‘worst practices' such as charging for checked bags an industry standard," states Symchych.

"Carry-on luggage, with the stuffed overhead compartments and jammed cabins, is a mess that the airlines created by charging extra for checked bags. They could make the boarding process faster and boost profits by charging more for carry-on luggage, boosting their base ticket rates and allowing customers to check their bags for free" says Symchych.

Weiss concludes, "We're seeing non-US carriers building bigger and better airport lounges, since they can't build bigger planes. They are returning to comfort and service for their best customers, something that US carriers have traditionally trailed in emulating. As global traffic is restored to normal levels, that could be huge competitive differentiator."

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