Cultural Differences – Singapore Airlines vs. Frankfurt Airport Staff

Most people who know me know that I am a great fan of Singapore Airlines and I try to use them as often as possible. Here is another example of the difference their employees make in regard to their contribution to the reputation of their company:

We landed in Frankurt after a most enjoyable trip from New York JFK returning from a fabulous week with members of the Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame. I picked up our luggage from the conveyor belt to recognize that one of our bags was seriously damaged: One wheel of the bag was missing and zippers were missing, too.

The lady of Singapore ground staff whom I showed the bag said immediately “We take care of that.“ Unfortunately “We“ was not only her, but also two ladies from Frankfurt Airport.

The conversation that followed was mainly characterized by formal questions of the Frankfurt Airport ladies who were lead through a computerized process. Here are some of the questions they asked me:

• “Can I have your boarding pass, please?“ – Me: “Of course.“
• “The one of your wife as well, please.“ – Me: “Why? It is my bag that has been damaged.“
• “Which flight number was it?“ – Me: “Look at the boarding pass!“
• “What class did you fly?“ – “We flew First Class. Why don’t you look at the boarding pass you just asked me for?“
• “Do you have a baggage insurance?” – “I have no idea! Why do you need to know that?“
• “How old is the bag and what did it cost?“ – “Do you want to fool me?“

The lady of Singapore ground staff of course recognized my being really unhappy and told their airport colleagues to just fill out the form in order to help us leaving the airport. Unfortunately she wasn’t permitted to work herself on the computer.

While the Frankfurt Airport ladies still were very busy with the computer, the Singapore Airlines employee said the following: “You have two options: Option one is that you go to the Airport Baggage Service in order to see if they can repair the bag here or—what I recommend since I can imagine that you just want to get home now—you can call us to pick up the bag at your home or your office and we repair it or we send you the money for a new one.“ She was empathetic and I was happy.

This happened while the two other ladies were still fighting with their computer and with me, their customer.

It makes a difference how you approach your customers and clients. If you really want your business to grow, you need employees in every single department at every single position who have your customer’s best interest in mind.

Is this difficult? Sure, it is. But it is possible and some companies—like Singapore Airlines—are very close to that. Some companies—like Frankfurt Airport—will probably never get even to the undergraduate level. Ever.

Guido Quelle

PS: This blogpost also appeared on Dr. Alan Weiss’s blog

(c) 2012, Prof. Dr. Guido Quelle, Mandat Consulting Group