It’s been a busy seven months for Simon Hickey since he was promoted from chief of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program to the newly-created role of CEO of Qantas International.
But while the highly-regarded exec deftly juggles a half-dozen balls – among them the Emirates tie-up, a revised playbook for Asia, new lounges, and potentially new business class seats – he’s careful to keep his eye on service as a cornerstone of “the Qantas experience.”
“I’m a big believer in using technology to deliver enhanced service” Hickey tells Australian Business Traveller, pointing to the rollout of iPads among Qantas cabin crew and Qantas’ bespoke Red customer service app.
“With their iPads our customer service managers can get real-time information about our customers as they’re flying.”
“For example they can go up to someone who’s just made Qantas Frequent Flyer gold and say ‘Congratulations on making gold!’ and offer them a glass of champagne.”
Such Ryan Bingham-esque experiences aside, the iPads also streamline the collection of feedback and help the airline act quickly address the inevitable problems.
“Let’s say you’re on your second (flight) sector and there have been some issues in the previous sector” Hickey explains.
“The customer service manager can pass that information on using the iPad, so we can try and do something for you customer on the second leg of your flight.”
The human touch
But technology remains subservient to Hickey’s goal of service – it’s the means to a passenger-pleasing end – so Qantas International cabin crew have also been sent on training courses in what Hickey calls ‘service culture’.
“In the past we’d train frontline staff how to set a table, how to deliver a meal, technical stuff and of course safety, and that’s important.”
“But we realised that we had never invested in training our people how to have a conversation, how to communicate. So ‘service culture’ is about understanding communication and how to have a better conversations with people.”
“It’s about putting in the human touch and the feedback from our customers has been terrific. They say ‘We don’t know what you’re doing at Qantas but you’re doing something because we’re really having a better time on our flights.’”
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.