Long-time Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher used to say they were in the customer service business “we just happened to fly airplanes.” Jeff Bezos talks about the importance of focusing on your customers, not on your competitors.
Those are two principles I think about in the me-too US airline world. And principles I thought of when I saw Mark Ross-Smith share on Facebook how he interacts with customers.
Mark is the head of the Malaysia Airlines Enrich program. He’s also the source of data and analysis on how Cathay Pacific’s revenue based changes to its elite program hurt the bottom line. He’s also been a blog commenter here for instance here and here.
His Facebook page isn’t public so I couldn’t share his story directly, but I reached out to ask if I could re-publish it here and he agreed. It’s really an amazing story.
Since joining Malaysia Airlines, one thing I’ve done every day is spend 1 hour at the airport after work.
My goal has been to do one simple act of kindness for a [Malaysia Airlines] passenger. From helping with lost luggage, lost in the airport, sick passengers, one pa[ssenger] missed their flight and I helped get it all rebooked and stayed with them til they boarded (after midnight).
I’ve given lounge access to an elderly couple who had a long transit, helped an Enrich member sign up for our Co brand credit card while I bought him a drink at the cafe, used my personal Uber account to send a pa[ssenger] to his hotel, and this is only the beginning.
This week, I decided to try something new by giving a box of Godiva chocolates to 3x Blue, 3x Silver and 3x Platinum passengers.
Hunting down random pa[ssengers] is tricky (especially those without lounge access). One of my Silver members tonight was boarding a flight to Kota Kinabalu…but he had already boarded! Determined to make his day I boarded the aircraft (it was mid boarding at this point) found my pa[ssenger] and embarrassed him a little in front of his fellow seat mates by thanking him for his continued loyalty with Malaysia Airlines. Crew brought him a welcome drink from business class afterwards.
These moments are the very reason I love this role as I can make a big difference in a small way.
He tells my by the way that what he gives out comes from his own pocket. He’s grateful for his role, and for his airline’s customers. He reports that he told his wife though that he “spent $400 on Godiva yesterday she went crazy at me.”
I see this as a fantastic way to touch customers, and to stay connected to the people you’re serving beyond how they’re embodied in spreadsheets.
Credit: Mark Ross-Smith
By the way Malaysia Airlines Enrich is a Citibank ThankYou transfer partner, they have actually receive meet and greet service in the airport,
A porter unloads bags from the member’s car, talks them to first class check-in, escorts them through VIP immigration and to the lounge and then waits at the lounge until their flight is ready. Members receive an escort to the gate, to the front of security, and onto the plane — putting bags away in the overhead bin.
I don’t love his award chart, though.