In March, two of our consultants were called to travel to Japan to visit one of our clients.
At first glance, this may appear to have nothing to do with customer service, but we encourage you to read on…
Guy and Eva went on an incredible trip that saw them travel for over 20 hours and pass through three different airports. On his return, Guy caught up with Sarah, our Marketing Manager, and this blog resulted from that conversation. A dive into Guy’s time working in the Aviation industry, how things have changed, not always for the better, and what that teaches us at Gradient about keeping ourselves client-focused.
Sarah: Talk to me about your previous experience Guy. I know you’ve worked in Aviation, and I would love to hear more about that.
Guy: I’m fortunate to have spent 30 years in the Aviation industry – and specifically at Manchester Airport for over 28 years – including during what I’d call ‘the good times’.
By this, I mean pre-9/11.
When going in for a shift meant a few good hours with work colleagues who were generally also mates, having a laugh whilst still getting the job done and offering good customer service to travellers as part of their overall experience.
There was some thought put into looking after staff back then: we could park quite close to where we worked, for example, there was a (good) staff canteen.
Similarly, passenger car parks were significantly closer to the terminals than they are now. Parking costs were reasonable-ish.
Sarah: It sounds like you had a lot of love for that role back then. So, what changed?
Guy: Later times were not so enjoyable, and as the necessary security measures were implemented, the feel and atmosphere worsened. It was not what it was.
That’s also not to say that MAN airport was always customer-focused; I understand that they’ve always had to run at a profit; they’re a private business. But it felt like there became more focus on profit than the customer experience.
I’m sad to say that, really. Having used MAN airport over recent years, this feels ever more evident.
Sarah: This happens a lot in businesses of the scale of Manchester Airport. They must generate huge amounts of income to sustain the business as it is. It’s often the case that this becomes more important, and somehow, they lose sight of the customer’s experience.
What about your trip to Japan? How was that different?
Guy: In March of this year, a work colleague and I were fortunate to be able to travel to Japan to visit a customer’s site.
Once there, everywhere we went, we were treated with respect and thoughtfulness and were presented with cleanliness and efficiency in almost everything we did (no one’s perfect!).
We decided to travel from MAN to HKG and then to Osaka (KAI).
Manchester Airport, as expected, proved to be challenging. Whilst effort has been made to look new and modern in the latest additions to the site, the underlying ethos of squeezing every penny out of passengers is ever-present. To drop off a family member means a significant charge. A taxi will see this charge added to your fare.
Need a baggage trolley? That’ll cost.
Then there’s the compulsory ‘meander’ through the Duty-Free shop to reach your gate.
Sarah: That’s an interesting point about Duty-Free. It once used to be something you got excited about. Now it feels like it’s a long hike!
Guy: Of course, the Duty-Free trick is not exclusive to MAN, but the overall experience was lacking in what HKG and KAI had to offer. Things were quick and slick at these airports. There were enough bodies to make a difference. They were clean and efficient, and there was minimal waiting around for anything.
There is no comparison with Manchester Airport – where Customer Service feels like it’s not always at the top of the list.
Sarah: Do you think that cultural differences have something to do with how we perceive customer service? I often laugh when I am in Germany because we’ve got this impression that everything is so efficient, but it’s not always true!
Guy: There may be some of that, yes! We know the Japanese to be incredibly polite and customer-focused, but I also feel that Manchester Airport has been added to over the years, and perhaps what once flowed well is now a patchwork of pieces that maybe don’t quite fit together as they should. It’s a bit like ERP software, isn’t it?
Sarah: Customer Service is a massive differentiator, isn’t it? Particularly regarding services we need, like airport travel and what we offer!
Guy: The other airports can teach us a lot about Customer Service. And it’s this that brings me to the point I wanted to make with this conversation.
We at Gradient try to get this right and try hard to find the best resolution for our clients, whatever their needs. We don’t always get it right, but we try to. And I think mostly; we do OK.
We feel that we’re good listeners and hope to listen to and react to our client’s thoughts and wishes.
If you’re looking for either a partner to help you find the right ERP system OR to help with implementing Infor CSI (we offer both services independently), check out our website and get in touch. We’ll listen first and then tell you if we can help; if so, we will try to find the best option for your business.
It’s free to talk, so there’s nothing to lose by checking us out. It might just make a difference.