|Phuong Uyen Tran, deputy CEO of Tan Hiep Phat Beverage (THP) Group |
Most would agree that their experience at airports throughout the world is hardly an enjoyable one. In fact, the most stressful aspects of travel for people involve the airport – not the experience of flying itself, according to a study done by Priority Pass.
Yet, for the past seven years, one airport has consistently claimed the title of World’s Best Airport by UK-based international air transport agency, Skytrax. Changi Airport operated in Singapore is one of Southeast Asia’s largest and the world's busiest transit hubs, serving over 50 million visitors each year. The honour was not easily earned, and yet Changi Airport seems to lead the competition by focusing on one key strategy: the customer experience.
The airport has been restlessly seeking to alleviate the stressful feelings and other reasons people worry or stress when using air travel, from security and baggage claim to delays and boarding.
Foo Sek Min, executive vice president of Airport Management for the airport, spoke to this very point when he said, “Airports are typically stressful places. Our goal is to remove stress. And it doesn’t just happen with people. It must envelop the entire culture.”
Walking through the airport reveals one prong of their multi-faceted approach to customer experience: atmosphere. Consider their massive Harry Potter-themed installation that impressed visitors throughout the holidays in 2018 or the recently constructed indoor rainforest that includes a 130-foot waterfall, trees to climb, a hotel to seek refuge in, and the highest quality eateries and merchants.
But their willingness to invest in an appealing and engaging atmosphere is only a portion of what makes the airport so successful. At its foundation is a culture centred around providing the highest level of service to every individual. To accomplish this successfully, they have worked with a consulting firm that focuses on just that: creating value for every customer that then translates into greater profitability for the company or entity.
The company, Uplifting Service, is a global leader in helping companies build successful service cultures. It is no coincidence that another client of Uplifting, Singapore Airlines, is consistently ranked as the top airline in the world.
Profitability requires happy customers
Undoubtedly, the overall satisfaction of the customer not only involves the actual product but the experience in procuring it, and THP Group business has always been evolving around this principle.
“At THP, our focus on the customer has always been top of mind – in fact, it’s our company’s first core value,” said Tran Uyen Phuong, THP Group deputy CEO. “These core values are ingrained in our culture and each employee understands the importance of adhering to them. For us, customer satisfaction means taking an initiative to listen to our customers, solicit feedback, and meet the demands of customers, partners, suppliers, and related parties in order to achieve everyone’s mutual goals and expectations,” she added.
In addition, THP Group has always been committed to providing what their customers want through innovative products that not only meet but exceed expectations.
The desire of the Vietnamese beverage giant has always been to execute on these priorities while maintaining the highest level of respect and dedication toward all customers, according to the deputy CEO.
This level of service is not achieved without dedicated effort. It is why the firm has integrated a management programme built around THP’s guiding principles. Accountability is a necessary component of maintaining the highest level of service.
Uyen also shared that once THP’s managers have completed the management programme, they are evaluated at thirty- and ninety-day intervals. At those checkpoints, commitment to the core values – including focus on customer satisfaction – is assessed.
“Focusing on the customer has always been important to my father and as an extension, THP,” said Uyen. “He firmly believed in building a leadership team with integrity that was customer-focused,” she added.
This is a belief that the most successful companies share – true leadership and an ability to serve the customer effectively is something to not only be taught but something that is re-emphasised continually.
In a customer case study for Uplifting Service, Sim Kay Wee, former senior vice president of cabin crew for Singapore Airlines, shared this astute piece of advice which Uyen always keeps in her mind: “If you are in the lead and want to stay there, 100 per cent is not enough. You need every member of the team to keep stepping up even higher.”
“At THP, our focus on the customer has always been top of mind – in fact, it’s our company’s first core value. These core values are ingrained in our culture and each employee understands the importance of adhering to them...In the end, our customers are what keep us in business.”
There is always something that can be improved
Continuing the thought from Sim Kay Wee of Singapore Airlines, achieving the highest level of service and quality requires all team members to pursue continual improvement. In the case of THP Group and its companies where there are always areas that the customer experience can be improved, even if it has worked previously. Uyen said that the group always consider certain factors to evaluate how the company enhances customer satisfaction.
First and foremost is to identify all touchpoints, taking the time to walk through each of the customer’s touchpoints with the company to see what they are currently experiencing, who they are interacting with, what works about the current process, and what could be improved.
“Each interaction with your customer is an opportunity to enhance the customer’s experience or detract from it,” Uyen stated.
In addition to that, she advised business leaders to look at their company’s willingness to invest.
“Some of the initiatives and improvements you may want to implement will require financial commitment. Do you currently have a budget for these kinds of projects? If not, is there a willingness across leadership to make customer satisfaction a priority?” the THP Group deputy CEO added.
According to Phuong, people who run a company should also not forget to take inventory of corporate training. Establishing desired characteristics of the corporate culture requires an investment of time and emphasis from leadership to mid-management and all employees. Attention should always be paid to find out training opportunities the firm has in place that help employees develop leadership- and service-related skills.
It is also important to understand how “the best” do it. The best way to understand industry best practices and how to improve beyond those is to first understand what those best practices are and who exemplifies those skills, regardless of “what” the industry is. Take notes from the top companies in an array of industries in countries throughout the world.
“In the end, our customers are what keep us in business,” Uyen shared. Focusing on strategies that increase customer satisfaction yields increased profitability for the companies that prioritise these initiatives.