Providing Good Customer Service Doesn’t Have to Cost the Earth

An isolated shot of a beautiful woman carrying shopping bagsAt it’s annual meeting recently, budget airline Ryanair announced that it will be reforming it’s ‘abrupt culture‘. The decision was taken after a number of key stakeholders expressed concerns about how poor customer service was hitting sales.

It’s fair to say that any company or organisation who doesn’t put it’s customer at the centre of everything that it does will begin to see an impact, regardless of how low their prices are.

Michael O’Leary, the Chief Executive of Ryanair said “we should try to eliminate things that unnecessarily p**s people off”. Complaints to Ryanair range from high fines if you forget your boarding pass at the airport to excessive charges if your bag is just a few millimeters too big.

OK, so they are the ‘big’ things, but a quick search of Ryanair reviews in Google throws up some other interesting thoughts:

“The service is abrupt and very unfriendly”, “no hospitality from staff”, “I don’t think we got acknowledged from staff at all apart from if we wanted to purchase anything”,. Although, these are just a few select comments, there are many other negative comments and also some good ones.

It may seem like we’re picking  on Ryanair here, we’re not. Many organisations have the same approach and similar comments online. What strikes us about all of these companies  is there is no consistency in the service being delivered. But, it is about customer service? Is customer service just the things that you do to provide the right things to a customer i.e. the right product, on time, good communication etc? Is there another dimension?

A buzz word that is currently doing the rounds is ‘Customer Experience’. We like this statement as this is what really differentiates one business from another. It’s not just about what we do for the customer,it’s about how we make the customer feel. What kind of experience does the  customer have?

Having a snazzy website, sending regular emails to customers to keep them updated and not charging £70 for a forgotten boarding pass may improve the’ service’ offered to customers, but does it improve the experience?

O’Leary said at the annual meting “A lot of those customer services elements don’t cost a lot of money … It’s something we are committed to addressing over the coming year,”

He’s right! But, as we said above, it’s not just the big things that need changing, the small things from a ‘customer experience’ point of view make the difference in any business. For example:

  • General courtesy. Saying hello, goodbye, please and thank you. Not just basic manners, but also acknowledges that the customer actually exists
  • Wearing a smile and showing that you are proud to be serving the customer.
  • Building rapport. Asking someone ‘how has your day been?’ instead of diving straight in with ‘can I help you?’ makes a huge difference to the customer. You want to know about them.
  • Showing customers that you can do something, no matter how small, rather than the things you can’t.
  • Explaining reasons for issues.  Telling the truth and not dressing up the truth to make it sound better.

The list above is just a small example of the simple things we can all do to improve service.

When we work with organisations who want to stand out from the crowd from a service point of view. Yes we work on the big things. We help them to develop standards to measure the service against and ensure consistency but those standards always start with the same basic principles and they are to ensure the basics are right first before you do anything bigger.

We think Michael O’Leary deserves a lot of credit here for admitting that things need to change. Another publicity stunt or a real promise? Only time will tell.