Extract from “The Leading-edge Manager’s guide to Success“.

I am writing this sitting in the cattle class of Cathy Pacific. On route to NZ. The difference is I do not feel like I should Moo. Why? Service. The staff are exceptional. Studying them I have come to the conclusion that service is not something you can simply teach at all. Your recruits first have to have the basics

 

I have come to the conclusion that you can class airline staff into 2,4,6,8,10, 12 hour airline. By that I mean for the first two hours you can hardly distinguish them apart They are gushing over you, even in economy class. After 2 hours of working in a cooped up space with no where to run the staff start showing their true colours. Some airlines are what I call 2 hour airlines anything more than a short internal flight exposes you to appalling service.

 

I called the Cathy Pacific bursar across to speaker to her. She asked if I had a problem. It was far from reality. During the discussion I asked can you train staff to be this good or do they have to be borne that way. She said immediately that that their staff where borne with the desire to serve. This made immediate sense to me. For how do you expect a person who is not innately service orientated to remain so for 12 hours. These are rare individuals, they all have the following traits:

  1. the fortitude to commit to a five tier /five month recruitment journey
  2. a love of “the common man”
  3. an eye for detail
  4. the ability to deal with the preverbal “sick bag”
  5. to look a million dollars when the batteries are empty
  6. to be a team player ( many stewardesses have never worked together)
  7. to smile at both customers and team members

 

The fortitude to commit to a five tier /five month recruitment journey

The Bursar told me that the staff who had applied had to go through an arduous five months process. Only the applicants who are committed to joining Cathy pacific get through this hurdle. During these interviews management are looking for the traits they need. The investment in the front end pays off with a quicker and more successful training process and one of the lowest staff turnover ratios in the industry.

A love of “the common man”

A man sleeping hugging a pillow with a wife and child connected through love and proximity. How do you get a staff person to care , to observe their needs and offer a Rolls Royce service, or as I will say from now on a “Cathy Pacific” service.

An eye for detail

I noted that even the small thing out of place was rectified with a smile. Each steward or stewardess would pick up paper, no matter how small, rectify the tangled headsets, straighten up blankets overhanging into the aisle as a matter of course.

The ability to deal with the preverbal “sick bag”

In all jobs there are tasks one would rather not do. The key to service is for staff to undertake these tasks willingly, realising that they have to be done. This trait was observed by myself on a number of occasions on the flight. It goes without saying that the toilets were the cleanest I have ever used.

To look a million dollars when the batteries are empty

After serving people in cramped conditions for over 12 hours and be able to look a million dollars when the batteries must be empty is truly exceptional. All staff when we departed where immaculate, smiling and looked ready to do another twelve hour shift rather than a twelve hour sleep!

 

To be a team player ( many stewardesses have never worked together)

One fascinating thing about flight crews is that have first met each other an hour or so before the flight. Airlines use a pool system and flight crew are roistered onto flights ensuring only that they have the necessary experience to serve the various different classes. So within an hour these individuals need to develop a rapport so that the customer thinks they have been together for years. In fact they have as they are part of a brotherhood and sisterhood that is strongly connected to the ethics of the airline. They can only achieve this seamless service by training all staff no matter where they are based in the world the same way. To achieve this I wager that Cathy Pacific have a centralised training school where all frontline staff, around the world, have to attend.

To smile at both customers and team members

The lost art of smiling. So often when working under stress the furrowed lines appear on the forehead and the scowl is ever present, hopeful warning all away as we are too busy for any sort of interaction. This trait is deadly in an service orientated enterprise. We need to recruit staff who can maintain that air of friendliness and humour even under pressure.

Extract from “The Leading-edge Manager’s guide to Success“.