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Friday, 25 January 2013

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Improvements

In the world of domestic airfares, whenever there's a fight to the bottom, someone always gets hurt. Usually it's the customer. Cheap seats, offset by hidden fees & poor service.

In Australia, new-comer Tiger Airways has been battered & bruised itself. Firstly from the belligerent competition from Jetstar, which in true Gandalf style, drew a market share line in the sand & said "You shall not pass!" And then secondly, a string of bad days in the office forced the Australian regulator to take them out of the skies completely & make them sit in the naughty corner till they could get their act together.

Photo: Wikipedia.org
But since then, whilst Qantas has dominated most of the headlines (they don't need the regulator to ground them, they can do it themselves), Tiger has been slowly creeping back.

In fact, in the latest statistics comparing Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar & Tiger, Tiger achieved the highest rate of on-time departures, highest rate of on-time arrivals & the lowest rate of flight cancellations. Jetstar came last. (1)

To add insult to Qantas group injury, Virgin Australia bought up a controlling 60% share of the airline in October last year, pumping cash & much-needed inspiration & reputation into the airline.

But whilst the numbers are going up & the fleet size increasing, that other factor in the airline business - customers - are not all yet feeling the love. And the bane of much of their problems appears to be their offshore call centre. We all know what they're like. So to their credit, Tiger today announced it was doing something about that too, posting this message on their facebook page:

"We want to apologise to our customers, we are extremely disappointed with the current levels of service you are experiencing when trying to call our call centre. We are moving to a new call centre provider on 1st February to ensure you receive the standards of service that you deserve and thank you for your patience in the meantime."

Is this where dream holiday plans end up?
Photo: news.com.au
Whilst many took the apology as an opportunity to voice past grievances, many also took it for what it was - an admission of a problem, an apology, & a solution. Such things are rare in the corporate world. I wonder to what extend Tiger's new masters had been involved in this.

My only dissapointment is that they have to use a foreign call centre provider at all. Obviously its considerably cheaper to contract out rather than hire the staff yourself in-situ & pay all the associated local labour costs. I hate it, but I get it. I'm not racist; foreign workers are no less valuable as human beings, so on a global level, the airline is creating jobs & giving people their own sense of dignity. But if you want to really enhance the customer's experience, here's the tip: most people expect to talk to people from their own country, in their own country, when travelling in their own country. Provide that, Tiger, & you'll be Australia's favourite airline.

(1) http://www.bitre.gov.au/statistics/aviation/otp_annual.aspx

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