Soaring customer service

Singapore AirlinesThe last seminar in Singapore was for 90 cabin crew of Singapore Airlines. I’d flown from SFO to Singapore as well as to and from India on Singapore Airlines, so had scrutinized the staff and their service. I had plenty of examples to sprinkle in my presentation on Calming Upset Customers.

The good news was, almost all of my examples were positive. I didn’t see any employee ignoring a passenger, nor acting inappropriately. The only criticism I saw in all my interactions was one for management.

Here it is: There was a long line to check bags for my flight home. Only one person was on duty at 6 a.m. for those who checked in online. So while they told passengers to be at the airport 3 hours before departure, which I was, they didn’t staff up to accommodate those who took their instructions seriously. At 7:00 another employee was added, but by then most of us had waited in line a long time. The queue for those who needed more than to check bags was twice as long, even though more employees were on duty.

What did Singapore Airlines do right?

  • At SFO the gate agent had to weigh each person’s large carry-on bag to ensure it didn’t go over the 7 kg limit. He went from person to person in the waiting area with a scale. I watched him get into protracted discussions with people who did not want to check their overweight luggage. He was always polite but firm. Even if someone got upset, he didn’t lose his cool.
  • On board, the flight attendants (they call them stewards and stewardesses) were not only impeccably dressed and groomed, they were unflappably gracious. In my session, I learned that passengers treat them poorly if there is a problem with the individual entertainment system, or if a passenger doesn’t like the food. I can’t imagine giving a flight attendant a hard time about these things, but apparently lots of people do. The stewardesses were always chipper and happy to fill to any request they could. Quite a contrast to some of the American carriers’ flight attendants who act like they’re doing you a favor to serve you half a can of soda.
  • Arriving at the Mumbai airport hours before take off, we were uncertain which was our gate, as it wasn’t posted. My travel companions and I camped out near a gate we were told was for our flight. About an hour before departure, with still no signage at the gate, a Singapore Airlines gate agent stopped by and asked where we were headed. When we told him, he said we were in the right place and when boarding would begin. This is the first time I’ve ever experienced an airline employee proactively seeking to be helpful to those in the waiting area.
  • In Singapore flying home, I had absentmindedly put a small pocket knife and cuticle scissors in my carry on. Security personnel detected them and put them in an envelope which they put in the checked baggage bin. I was told to give my receipt to the Singapore Airlines personnel in the SFO baggage claim area to retrieve them. Sure enough, there was personnel at the baggage carousel. I gave her my recept and moments later my items arrived. In the past I’ve had TSA confiscate these items never to be seen again.

Is Singapore Airlines perfect? Of course not. However, as a frequent flyer I can spot when someone seems to like their job or not. Interestingly, I learned that Singapore Air does not pay its staff top wages. In fact, those attending my seminar came on their day off and bought my book with their own money, not the company’s. This shows me that the airline knows how to hire people who have an attitude of investing in their professional development, not an entitlement mentality.

If you get a chance, fly on this airline. And report to me about your experience.

“Our Cabin Crew loved you and enjoyed themselves too.” —Adrian Eee, Cabin Crew Executive

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