Vicki Benoit, Director, Customer Care, Air Canada, shared her thoughts on how to plan a brand voice project that integrates diverse teams in her keynote presentation to Argyle's CX membership at the 2017 Customer Experience Leadership Forum in Toronto on March 30. In her presentation, "How a Brand Voice Project Enabled Disparate Customer Contact Teams at Air Canada to Work Together and Improve Customer Care," Benoit described how Air Canada updated its brand voice by getting its customer service teams to work together.
In 2015, Air Canada embarked on a mission to revamp its brand voice, Benoit said. To accomplish this goal, the company began to take a customer-centric approach to understand how customers felt about the company and its services.
"We've spent many years on the bottom line and are hard specs, and now, it's really time to focus on the customer," Benoit said.
Ultimately, Air Canada discovered customers frequently encountered a number of problems with the airline, including:
- Customers felt rushed and frustrated when they traveled.
- Air Canada deployed policies and systems that often were difficult to understand.
- Air Canada did very little to provide personalized support to customers.
- At times, customers wished they had chosen an airline other than Air Canada.
Although Air Canada had enjoyed many successes over the years, the airline appeared to have plenty of work ahead if it wanted to transform its customer experiences, Benoit stated.
"Good customer service is really about building a strong relationship."
Thus, Air Canada needed to find the best ways to ensure its employees could personalize each traveler's experience. With this approach, Air Canada would be able to provide travelers with the emotional support they need time and time again.
"Airline travel can be stressful from the moment you want into an airport, whether it's your once-a-year vacation or you're traveling all the time," Benoit stated. "You'll run into our employees, and it's how they make you feel that's really going to determine your journey with us."
Air Canada also required a CX strategy that would account for the fact that problems sometimes arise during flights, regardless of circumstances.
For example, if a traveler's luggage was lost, Air Canada employees would need to be able to empathize with a dissatisfied customer. These employees would need to understand the customer's perspective and do everything possible to assist them through a difficult travel experience.
"Sometimes, we do fall short of customers' expectations, but we know that what's really important is to make that emotional connection with our customers," Benoit noted.
How Air Canada employees approach customer service and CX has transformed the way that many flyers feel about the airline.
"We've spent many years on the bottom line and are hard specs, and now, it's really time to focus on the customer."
Today, Air Canada promotes relationship-building as a key tenet of its workers' day-to-day efforts. This helps employees maintain a positive, proactive approach to customer service, resulting in memorable customer experiences.
"Good customer service is really about building a strong relationship," Benoit said.
Furthermore, Air Canada has revamped the way it responds to customer feedback.
In the past, the airline asked customers to provide written feedback and would respond accordingly. But in many instances, this approach failed to deliver the desired results.
"In order to get all the information we need from customers, we ask them to write," Benoit indicated. "We were getting complaints about the actual responses to the complaints … The responses were very bureaucratic, stern and sometimes even scolding. And we knew that we needed to make that change."
Air Canada now strives to provide clear, concise and straightforward responses to customer concerns and queries. This has helped the airline provide its customers with the assistance they need, any time they need it.
Other steps that Air Canada has taken to revamp its brand voice include:
- Sharing its expertise. Air Canada strives to help customers make informed decisions.
- Listening to its customers. Air Canada allocates the necessary time and resources to listen to its customers.
- Taking a customer-first approach. Air Canada puts its customers at the forefront of everything it does.
Previously, Air Canada's brand voice lacked an emotional connection with customers.
"We may have an emotional connection with customers for two different reasons: the advertising, or the customer service," Benoit stated. "For me and the customer service teams, brand was just advertising, and it didn't really relate to the customer service aspect."
Benoit pointed out that the airlines has successfully revamped its brand voice to keep pace in a rapidly evolving business landscape.
The new brand voice has helped Air Canada differentiate itself from the competition. Perhaps most important, Air Canada's brand voice now takes into account the customer – something that may help the airline further enhance its brand reputation for years to come.
Vicki is an airline industry leader with a blend of experience that includes customer service, strategic planning, airport operations and corporate transformation projects. She started her career with Air Canada 30 years ago as a Call Centre agent and is now the Director of Customer Care, where she promotes a passenger-centric culture. In 2016 she took on the mission of transforming how employees communicate with customers, particularly when things go wrong. She believes this quote from Maya Angelou embodies the essence of customer care: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Vicki is a Montrealer who loves to travel for both work and pleasure. This experience helps her to tap into the needs and expectations of airline customers.