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Case Studies - Change
Aer Lingus is Ireland’s national airline, in an era where the concept of a national airline has changed. Facing significant competition from a relaunched ‘softer’ Ryan Air, and from larger carriers on long haul routes – Aer Lingus incepted a new brand positioning of ‘a smarter experience’. Our task was to translate this into behaviour, through a change programme designed to bring customer service from 'good' to 'great'.
A Competitive Landscape
Supporting the Aer Lingus brand position of 'a smarter experience' was a renewed focus on a superior guest experiences, and the goal was set to upgrade the airline’s Skytrax rating from 3 to 4-star. Skytrax is the international airline quality rating organisation and a 4-star rating is held by only 40 airlines around the world.
A 4 star rating would mean more than ‘good’ customer service. The change required was to bring this to ‘great’- as judged by passengers, and the Skytrax auditing process.
Aer Lingus launched new corporate Service Standards in 2015. Implementation of the standards however wasn’t consistent. We were asked to design a programme which would translate the desired change from ‘good’ to ‘great’ into a set of consistent behaviours and attitudes for all staff.
Research, audits and mystery shopping gave us insight into guest or traveller needs. Functional needs like punctuality, efficiency, good baggage handling were overlaid with emotional needs like empathy, respect, and support for what can be a pretty heightened emotional experience.
Our objectives were to help the1800 frontline staff understand the strategic vision for Aer Lingus and what exactly 4 Star Skytrax service meant. More specifically, after participation, the team needed to:
• Carry out Service Standards relevant to their role even under difficult circumstances;
• Learn from each other to recognise and acknowledge excellent customer service;
• Perform to their best each day so passengers receive a consistently exceptional experience; and
• Create a long-term culture of great customer service
We needed to help the team translate corporate Service Standards into real life behaviours. Behaviours which reflected the airlines strong legacy as pioneer, and flag bearer for Ireland and Irish hospitality in thousands of everyday interactions with guests.
Unique Design and Delivery
We created a bespoke, innovative learning programme with the airline team. We combined interactivity, learning maps and an interactive space for learning, along with corporate role players, and a series of scenarios based on real life data and feedback.
The learning room was a vibrant and dynamic space. We worked with corporate role players to recreate real life encounters, dramas, big and small which typified guests’ actual experiences.
The hpc team was supported by internal facilitators, whom we trained and then co-facilitated with, in a roll out which lasted a mammoth 8 weeks, operating 7 days a week to facilitate shift patterns of the staff.
Ensuring Learning Transfer
Given the scale of the rollout and the need to create profound behavioural change, we strengthened the learning transfer by having participants create a service legacy – a vision of how they’d like to be remembered by guests for their customer service. This reinforced the key elements of the ‘Good to Great’ programme, elements which are also now built into the airline’s new hire induction plans. We also worked with line managers to ensure that they reinforced the new behaviours in every conversation with their teams.
Since the programme roll out, Aer Lingus has seen significant increases in guest satisfaction.
Their Net Promoter Score has increased by 4 points over the same period last year. The airline’s transfer score has increased by 7 points (transfer is a key indicator of improved teamwork between ground crew and cabin crew.) Aer Lingus’ guest scores for in-flight experience have also increased significantly, and in July 2016, Aer Lingus was voted Europe’s 3rd most loved airline.
Finally, and most significantly, on 12th July 2016 Aer Lingus was awarded the 4-star rating by Skytrax – achieving what we set out to - and the ultimate recognition of a superior guest service.
The standard of guest service achieved, Skytrax commented, was epitomised in the ‘kind and warm personality of staff which shines through on flights’. This comment, more than anything signalled to us that our objective to translate service standards in to real life, authentic guest service had been achieved.
We were delighted to win Silver at the 2016 Training Journal Awards, with this programme with Aer Lingus – you can read more about those Awards here.
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