Over the last couple of months we continue to hear awful stories from the airline industry. Ryanair is canceling flights, affecting 300,000 to 400,000 customers, all because they have made errors when scheduling the holidays of their pilots. United Airlines who dragged a passenger off a flight because his seat was to be given to a crew member, an event followed by an email from the CEO that really missed the beat when it comes to customer centricity. Flying myself, I am not particularly pleased with the customer experiences I encounter, especially when dealing with uninterested staff and awful food (WHY?). But I must say, there is an airline that is really setting the standard. That made me smile during the entire customer journey and beyond.
The destination of the trip I’m writing about was Adelaide, where I was going to speak at the 2017 conference of Golf Management Australia. They arranged for me to fly Business Class (THANK YOU); something that is really needed in order to feel as fresh as possible on arrival, especially with such distances and flying time. Or as “Fresh as a cucumber”, but I will get back to that later.
Traveling to the airport
When you fly business class, Emirates offers a complimentary limousine service that picks you up from home and takes you to the airport. Yes! That is where the journey begins, at home. This makes traveling easy and enjoyable.
This Thursday morning I was picked up by driver John in his shiny Mercedes and he explained the process towards Schiphol Airport. All with a touch of Emirates, but I know he is working with a local limousine company. He received good instructions from Emirates and executed them in the perfect way.
At the airport and boarding the plane
The Emirates desks are in Schiphol Airport’s Terminal 3 and easy to reach, especially with driver John dropping me of at the perfect spot. I checked in and headed for the Emirates lounge. Nothing really special here, but a nice selection of food and drinks. I had to walk all the way to Gate G-something, so I headed there early and found they did something smart there. They had a special seating area for frequent and Business Class travelers. A smart solution to get rid of the ridiculous lines before boarding a plane. When entering the plane, many air hostesses were offering drinks – yes, I liked a glass of Champagne – and helped me to take care of a fragile parcel I brought.
Stop Over at Dubai Airport
The flight was brilliant. I had a very comfortable seat, slept, worked, watched the movie “Alice in Wonderland” (this is important, hang on), and had a drink in the bar at the rear end of the A380. A fun way to get out of your seat and connect with other passengers, if you want to. We landed at Dubai Airport and I had to transfer to another gate. Perfect signs and a brilliant lounge, with fresh food. I ate some mango, pineapple, had a freshly squeezed smoothie and just felt happy. I made my way to the other gate where I was halted by an Emirates employee.
“Sorry Miss Bloem, we have a problem.” I was a little shocked and thought the flight was overbooked (United Airlines memory) or maybe canceled (Ryanair)?
“No, we upgraded you.” Me being a little sassy, answered: “That is not possible, I already fly Business Class”. But the flight attendant had a reply. She said: “You will now be flying First Class.” Yes, she got me silenced and very curious what that experience would be like!
Flying first class
Okay, everything you ever imagined about flying First Class IS TRUE. It is just amazing. I had seat 2a. In first class, that is not seat 2a, that is Suite 2a. A large cabin within the cabin, 3 airplane windows long and a bar that could be pushed up and down, snacks in a basket and a fresh orchid to top it all off. I have taped a short YouTube video, to give you an impression. In the snacks basket was also a tube with tablets to keep you hydrated carrying the brilliant slogan “Arrive as fresh as a cucumber”, and that is exactly what happened to me this trip. I couldn’t stop smiling, being happy about receiving the royal treatment. I felt like “Nienke in Wonderland” with my perfect Wi-Fi, a la carte room service, Dom Perignon 2006, pajamas, caviar which I never tasted before and the bed they made for me so I could have a wonderful sleep.
Asking for feedback
The TV set was a touch screen, had all kinds of entertainment and for me as a CX professional a customer feedback questionnaire – something I always fill in. I rated everything with high numbers, feeling very special and perfectly looked after by Gigi and Miriam, the 2 flight attendants in First Class during this flight. I had a nice chat with Miriam and I shared my field of work (Customer Experience and being a speaker) and she told the purser, who at her turn also had a friendly chat.
What she did at that moment, I still find extraordinary and something more employees should do. She said: “Thank you for your customer feedback, but I am curious, what could we have done better?” A very good question, vulnerable and open for my comments. I couldn’t think of anything for me, since I felt like smiling all the way through, but I did find something they could have improved for Emirates. They never really mentioned the Duty Free. Yes, it was somewhere on my TV and in the magazine, but since they didn’t mention it, they lost that potential moment to cross-sell. She took notes and thanked me. Mentioning she would implement it on the next flight from Adelaide.
Fun with the crew
After that feedback moment, she asked if I would like a souvenir to remember my flight. I was very curious what she meant and of course I replied “Yes”! She brought me an instant camera, took a snap shot of me in my seat and had a folder to put the picture in. Isn’t that amazing! Emirates thought of the moment of WOW, got instant cameras out to the crew, instructed them and supplied them with cards to put the photo in. I wanted a selfie with Miriam, the lovely thoughtful flight attendant, who served me this flight. She asked if I wanted to be a colleague for a while and so I became an Emirates colleague for 5 minutes.
Four insights and learnings
At the airport my bags arrived in an instant and the limo service was there to pick me up to bring me to my hotel in Adelaide. I have never had a customer experience like this. Feeling important, mentioning my name (remembering my name), caring for me, with exceptional products and services. What are the learnings I want to share with you, to maybe copy or take into consideration?
- Ask for feedback. Just a simple question, from an employee to a customer, what could we have done better? So valuable, so full of insights. If you take that moment, listen well, implement and acknowledge me as a customer, you will stand out and make a difference with regards to your competitors.
- Have fun. The way Miriam had me dress up as an Emirates flight attendant, joking around. That was enjoyable. Too often services and employees are too serious, and life is too short. Have fun with your customers, they will like that!
- Create memories. The camera that and the instant photo that was made. I will put that photo in a frame and will never forget this flight. Where can you help your employees to create memories and make them everlasting for customers?
- Consistency. Emirates is a luxurious brand and has found a way to translate this luxurious high end branding in all phases of the customer journey. Not only with their own personnel, but think of John, the driver of the limousine service, they have their partners breathe the same experience. Find out how your partners and employees are delivering these branded experiences and improve where you are lacking.
It is more than 2 weeks after my first class experience and I am still smiling from this journey. Thank you Emirates, thank you Miriam. For the story, for the smile. I will never forget you making me feel special on this trip.
What are your current experiences while traveling? Consistent with the branding or just totally off? I am curious for your travel stories.
** Know that this blog is my own experience, it is not sponsored, but a very well planned and executed customer experience. There are many awful experience shared on social media where we can learn from, but this exceptional customer journey had to be shared from my professional and personal view. Copy paste and gain your customers loyalty **