3 customer service lessons from beloved Virgin America

April 7, 2014 0
3 customer service lessons from beloved Virgin America

Flyers love Virgin America, the 7-year-old airline that serves 21 North American airports. The proof is in the rankings.

  • In 2014, Virgin America ranked No. 1 for the second straight year on the Airline Quality Rating report, an annual analysis of U.S. airline performance.
  • In 2013, readers of Travel + Leisure magazine rated Virgin America as the top U.S. airline for the sixth consecutive year.
  • In its first year of eligibility, Virgin America took the top spot in Consumer Reports’ 2013 ratings of U.S. airlines.

In a news release about the Airline Quality Rating, Virgin America’s chief operating officer, Steve Forte, said: “As a young airline, our goal from day one has been to reinvent flying for the better. Our teammates have shown that in addition to the innovative, award-winning guest experience we’re known for, we also work hard every day to run an excellent operation and deliver on our promise to guests.”

Now, you might be wondering how Virgin America’s high-flying reviews relate to your storage facility. Actually, there’s a simple but strong connection here: Both Virgin America and your facility are engaged in customer service. Your facility can learn a lot from Virgin America, including these three customer service lessons.

1. Build a Great Culture.
David Cush, president and CEO of Virgin America, told the San Francisco Business Times that one of the airline’s guiding principles is to establish a great culture for workers, “where they feel motivated and included and [it’s] a pleasant place for people to work.”

Happy employees generally translate into happy customers.

2. Hire Carefully.
Forbes.com columnist Carmine Gallo pointed out that the airline brings employees aboard selectively, hiring one of every 100 people who apply. Cush told Gallo that Virgin America seeks employees who are positive and friendly, and “see life as ‘glass half-full.’”

“People first; profits second,” Gallo wrote.

(Important note here: Virgin America has failed to turn a profit yet.)

On its website, Virgin America says it wants to hire people who are creative, compassionate, patient, visionary, spontaneous, articulate, attentive, ambitious, fun, humble, brave, sympathetic, unflappable, dedicated, curious, passionate, energetic, inspiring and trustworthy. To be sure, it’s a pretty tall order to find all of those qualities in one person.

3. Empower Employees.
“Empowerment simply means that employees are trusted and empowered to do what’s in the best interest of the customer,” Gallo wrote.

Cush told Gallo that empowerment “is the key to a great customer experience.”

Gallo noted that during a fog delay at San Francisco International Airport, one Virgin America flight crew brought the first-class drink cart out to the gate. There, free cocktails were served to waiting passengers.

“We’re really a customer service company that’s operating an airline,” Forbes.com quoted a Virgin America pilot as saying.

Soaring or Nosediving?
In Cush’s opinion, major airlines have taken the “joy out of flying,” according to the Sabre Airline Solutions blog. “Part of it is the economics of the industry,” Cush said, “but also management turning inward and away from the guest experience.”

So it might be time to ask yourself whether your storage facility has turned inward and away from the customer experience. Are your customers truly happy? Are you asking them for feedback? If not, your facility could be flying in the wrong direction.

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