Ron Kaufman on why companies whose cultures aren’t built around the eagerness to delight the customer won’t survive.
A few years ago, Air Mauritius struggled with a $30 million loss, mediocre service ratings, and bad staff morale. Thanks to a dramatic cultural shift and quality customer service, it’s profitable again and has earned the prestigious 4-star Skytrax rating.
Global service guru Ron Kaufman, who worked closely with Air Mauritius on significantly improving its service, says there are some lessons all companies can learn from its example.
“In a hyper-connected global economy, a company is only as good as its reputation for service,” says Kaufman. “It’s not hard to see why. As customers, we want to be treated like we matter. Service has become one of the most critical competitive advantages to harness and yet not everyone knows how to get it right.”
There is indeed little doubt today that companies which under-serve customers stand to lose them quickly to a surging sea of competitors waiting to embrace them. Add to that, when customers are treated poorly, they can wreck havoc on a company’s reputation by instantly airing their indignation via social media public forums, which are a mere click away.
Agile companies work around the clock to avoid this scenario, but it is not always easy. Transforming a culture that crosses many boundaries is no small task.
“Most leaders want to give great service,” notes Kaufman. “Yet, for many reasons—not the least of which is how tough it is to get thousands of employees aligned in delivering consistent and outstanding service—many companies fail. Sometimes spectacularly.”
The good news, says the service guru, is that even large companies with terrible service track records can turn service and, in turn, profitability around. Through his company, Uplifting Service, Kaufman deploys a proven methodology for helping big organizations make this powerful cultural shift.
Over two decades, he has helped companies on every continent build a culture of uplifting service that delivers real business results year after year.
Kaufman is the author of The New York Times best-seller Uplifting Service and 14 other books on service, business, and inspiration.
An exuberantly positive and insightful man into human behaviour and psyche, he is today one of the world’s most sought-after educator, thought leader and speaker on the topic of achieving superior service. Two of his biggest clients are Singapore Airlines and Changi Airport, arguably global leaders in customer service delivery. So, how do they do it?
“Singapore Airlines closely tracks the industry standard and continuously exceeds it,” he says. “They never rest on their laurels and are constantly finding ways to surprise and delight the customer.”
With regards to Changi, Kaufman notes that while serving over 50 million visitors each year (more than seven times the national population), it has become one of the busiest airports in the world, and the first place where millions of visitors make their impression of this small island nation.
“Many customers today call Changi a total 5-star experience. And this is because of the vision of its management to embrace and instill an impeccable service culture,” notes Kaufman.
Changi’s management has, over the years, worked closely with Kaufman to institutionalize a culture for consistently extraordinary service. To passengers, this includes unstintingly helpful, efficient and cheerful staff, lush indoor gardens, an unsurpassed airport shopping experience, children’s play areas and shining, clean terminals. This atmosphere has been enabled, behind the scenes, says Kaufman, through a strong leadership committed to service excellence, clear role-modelling, full-staff training and recognition programmes that make Changi stand out above others globally.
“In one of the most competitive eras of the global economy, great service is the price of admission,” says Kaufman. “Companies whose cultures aren’t built around the eagerness to delight the customer won’t survive”.