I started writing this somewhere over Eastern Europe aboard a Turkish Airlines Airbus 320 bound for Istanbul the third leg of four in a round-trip from Bahrain to Europe and back. I can’t recall ever having traveled Turkish Airlines until two weeks ago when I made the reverse trip from Bahrain to the UK, but had I not been a captive of my round-trip ticket I would probably have switched carriers at Istanbul, never to return to the carrier again, such were the horrors of my first leg.
I find it hard to remember a more dour cabin crew than that which accompanied me from Bahrain to Istanbul. I felt sure their training must have included hours spent in front of mirrors perfecting their scowl. Their general, attitude toward passengers was variably off-hand or aggressive and they seem to have taken their frustrations out on the in-flight fare, which they had managed to suck all the moisture out of before throwing it at us.
What a contrast, therefore, was the second leg of the same journey, where we were greeted by smiles and tended with tasty, well-presented (by airline standard), in-flight catering.
Leg three of the round-trip was even better. New plane, pretty attendants with nice smiles and truly good food and as I lounged in leather-clad comfort I reflected on how my opinion of Turkish Airlines may have differed, had this been my initial experience. The final leg demonstrated how great, well-trained customer-facing personnel can even overcome other deficiencies in your offer. The last of the quartet of Turkish Airlines planes I was to experience was clearly in the twilight of it’s years and it hadn’t been at the front of the maintenance queue either. I found myself hoping this was because they had spent so ling diligently servicing the engines! In the cabin there was only one working toilet, a number of the entertainment centres were faulty and the crew were put to the test by a woman with two juvenile delinquents who were sitting behind me and promised to ruin my flight. However, they didn’t because the cabin crew worked hard to bring the experience back on track. The complete event has underlined to me the importance for any business of achieving consistency and the essential role that internal marketing plays in that.
I have spoken many times in my seminars and writing about the importance of consistency in the success of a brand. Not just consistency between the different facets of your business, but within each one too. Had my third flight been my introduction to Turkish Airlines and what was my first been a subsequent experience I would have been more ready to accept that it may be difficult to get it right every time. As things are I need more reassurance before I accept that Turkish Airline’s good stuff isn’t the fluke! I often quote some statistics I picked up years ago that say it may cost ten times as much to sell for the first time to a customer than to make subsequent sales to the same person, but it will cost a hundred times that to entice a customer back once you have disappointed them. Such is the price of reassurance.
Customers need the reassurance that only consistency will provide and of course while its best for everyone if you are consistently good, with all the implications that has for customer retention, pricing policy and margin; being average all the time is better than lunging from crap to brilliant in a way that makes doing business with you a lottery.
Achieving consistency is about nothing more or less than internal marketing. Identifying your brand, its values and attributes and introducing them to every employee at every level of your business in such a way that they adopt them as their own.
If you have the right people in place they’ll take this and run with it bringing their personal skills and experience to bear and adding value to your brand and therefore your business. There’s no shortcut. Organisations who have chosen instead to apply a dictatorial approach to what they call “training” have consistently failed. As dictators around the world have learned, dictatorship only works if you can preempt every eventuality, which of course you can’t, so you have to adopt a more nurturing approach and allow well-trained and motivated staff to interpret your brand values. In fact, one of the organisations that has achieved most success in this is another airline – SouthWest Airlines, who famously wooed customers with a consistent, if off-the-wall, brand personality through two industry slumps, almost uniquely maintaining profitability throughout.
These days we are all looking for ways to squeeze the highest return from investment and with the price of mainstream media what it is, communicating within your own business looks like a bargain. What is more, most organisations find that the return they get on internal marketing significantly outstrips that of external campaigns.
I’m quite sure that had the cabin crew on my Bahrain to Istanbul flight focused on delivering the Turkish Airlines promise my overall impression of the airline would have been a lot better. As it is, because I was a captive of my round-trip ticket the carrier had the chance to demonstrate what they really could do and I might just be persuaded to book with them again, but probably only if they were cheaper than their competitors. As I said … such is the price of reassurance!
July 31, 2012