Get the basics right first, then add those magic touches – that is the advice of Linda Moir (pictured), a former cabin crew director for Virgin Airlines and head of event services staffing at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. Moir shared her expertise at a recent meeting of the AM Executive Breakfast Club.
‘Basics’, she said, are the bottom of what customers expect – even when buying a product, they are also buying a service.
“As customers, our expectation is growing all the time, our expectations are increasing all the time – when you go out for a meal, you expect the waiter to ask how your meal is.
“If you look at low-price flights , a Virgin flight will probably be a few pages of scrolling away – Virgin doesn’t differentiate based on price. You have to add something extra in terms of customer service for the customer to bother going to page 16.”
Meeting expectations, then exceeding them
Once a business has the basics right, Moir suggested adding ‘magic touches’ – things that will be memorable to a customer and go beyond the basic expectation when purchasing anything, never mind a high-ticket item such as a car.
For example, at Virgin, for those on overnight flights, their bed was turned for them with a little teddy left on their pillow – a small cost, but a big reward.
Moir believes ‘sales’ is not just about the product, but about the ‘human-wrap’ you put around that product.
When Virgin launched its business class seat (which converted into a flat bed), it was the longest bed in business class. Three months later, a competitor came up with something better, Moir explained.
“My point is there will always be better products, there will always be a competitor that will come along and be better. So what you need to do is make sure your customer experience and your staff and that padding around the product is at its best, because that is something that competitors can’t copy.”
If all you have are great products, customers have various other franchises to choose from. Customers will go where there is more to the customer experience.
“My favourite ever customer letter was from a chap flying in economy with three small children under eight. He had forgotten to order special meals for the children and they didn’t want what was available, which he explained to the flight attendant. At this point, the flight attendant could have said ‘if you had gone online 48 hours before, we would have been able to find something’. Instead, she found the cart of food that had been made up for the in-flight crew and made up three little picnic bags for the children.”
Moir said the crew member was so engaged with her job, she instantly knew the right thing to do.
She said total consistency in managing people across a business is impossible because each employee is different, but making sure your line manager in each dealership has the same ideals as you is key for your staff to experience that drive and for those ideals to be relayed and adopted down the chain.
Learn from your recruitment mistakes
“In the beginning, we made a lot of mistakes with recruitment so what we did was a simple piece of research. We took two groups – 20 of our best cabin crew and then a not-so-great group. We looked at the CVs of both groups and the thing that made the difference was that the best group had already worked with customers before they joined us. They had already served their service apprenticeship with someone else.
“As a result of that research, we changed our recruitment advertising using more straight-to-the-point advertising, as opposed to pictures of beaches etc.”
Moir also organised the volunteers at the London Olympic Games, which required strategies she had developed while working at Virgin. The Games needed 60,000 volunteers, with nothing but a uniform, an oyster card and a meal if they were on a shift of more than six hours as payment.
“They really were volunteers,” said Moir, whose research had showed that people were happiest when they had lots to do and need to be rotated into different jobs and duties. She said by doing this, bringing out the personality of the volunteers and by ensuring the best managers were at each venue to rally everyone, the Olympics and its volunteers were a success.
“If you only do one thing in your business, you should make sure that your line managers are as passionate as you are about delivering great customer service,” said Moir.