An airline that claims to be ‘low costs, no frills’ has only the customer to thank for its success. The steps they could have taken to avoid this situation are:
It seems logical that a public apology statement should have been made as soon as news of the incident hit the mainstream media. Irrespective of the person at fault or pending investigation, a public statement should have been made immediately.
- Passengers who witnessed the event should have been reassured and informed about the issue at hand. Negative experiences of customers hurt the brand equity of a company.
- The phrase ‘Customer is the king’ has to emphasised during the initiation process of the employees. All the members of IndiGo should be aligned with this common vision of customer-centric services. One can’t be so myopic as to believe that the customer will be attracted to the airlines on the basis of the product alone.
The first thing that a company like IndiGo should have is uniform service experience. If a customer asks of a service to be provided to them, the employees should make it their duty to fulfil that request. The carrier should have made it a priority to train its servicemen in a way that symbolises its motto of delivering quality to customers.
They should have also personally issued public statements regarding the incident and not have wait for an investigation. For a few weeks, they should have displayed advertisements on TV and online media which contained positive testimonials of customers to reaffirm IndiGo’s existing brand image. This could have arrested the airline’s slide.
Prevention is better than cure
Since the customer at the other end is always an unknown variable, what can help pacify a situation like this is to turn the employees into dependable constants through:
- Employee scenario management training programmes
- Zero tolerance policy towards workplace aggression
- Stringent policies to defuse tense situations
Some other suggestions include:
- Having a physical buzzer/hooter system in places where interaction between customers and employees is common. Even if the employee himself/herself is unable to reach a superior or security personnel, other customers can use this mechanism indicating need of assistance.
- Slight changes in the recruitment process. Further rounds of interview/psychometric testing that can gauge an employee’s behavioural conduct. (A HR interview helps, but it is based on the person’s past experiences rather than his/her current self.)
Dealing with irate passengers
The staff should follow some basic thumb rules:
- Stay calm
- Control body language
- Don’t encroach on a customer’s physical space
- Listen to their problems
- Make clarifications and answer questions politely
- Find solution to a problem
If there is an irate passenger on board, the best thing the staff can do is to notify the aircrew about it so that they can avoid further agitating the person. Ground crew may be inclined to deal with the passenger themselves but it would be best to let the flight crew handle the situation.
As evident from the graph (Source: The Hindu), staff behaviour is one of the reasons many customer’s complain, so it is important for IndiGo to ensure the following in their employees:
Apart from these, IndiGo should have a strong social media policy and work as a team to build and showcase all these customer-centric approaches and methodologies of the company.
(The second runners-up are pursuing their first year of PGP from IIM Indore.)