NMBS Conference 2014: Striving for high levels of customer service

Published:  20 June, 2014

“Defining your brand with great customer service”, was the topic of discussion by Linda Moir, who has worked in a number of high profile businesses that have developed extraordinary reputations for outstanding customer service.

In her presentation, Ms Moir drew on her experiences at working for Virgin Atlantic as the airline’s director of in-flight services and also leading the front line event services team at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012 where 15,000 volunteer games makers hosted 9m spectators. She told the listening audience how having a differentiated customer experience can drive improved business performance.

A touch of magic

With a philosophy of “making flying fun”, Ms Moir explained how Virgin Atlantic differentiates itself from competitor airlines by providing a bespoke customer experience. She told delegates: “A constant desire to innovate and do things differently has always been at the heart of Virgin Atlantic. The company took skills from the entertainment industry and translated them to work on airlines. This meant introducing stand-up bars in Upper Class and offering customers that inimitable Virgin attitude.”

During her five years at Virgin Atlantic, Ms Moir oversaw significant business growth, while consistently driving the company’s service promise of ‘Brilliant Basics, Magic Touches’.

Through carrying out extensive research, Ms Moir revised the recruitment, training, promotion and performance management of 5,000 cabin crew to develop award-winning service strategies that led to the airline receiving its highest recorded customer satisfaction scores.

“The ‘Brilliant Basics, Magic Touches’ strategy teaches Virgin Atlantic staff how to get the basic things right, such as looking smart in uniform, or keeping the aircraft clean and tidy,” she said. “The second teaches them how to stand out to customers by doing things well and doing them with style. For example, instead of having a laminated card informing an Upper Class passenger how to turn their seat into a bed, cabin crew staff will do this for them and then place a small teddy bear on their bed – thereby creating an element of surprise for the customer.”

Ms Moir added: “These sprinkles of ‘magic touches’ are low in cost, but allow Virgin Atlantic to deliver an excellent customer experience time after time.”

Success of the games makers

One of the most memorable and iconic images from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was the enthusiastic ‘games makers’, who destroyed the belief that British people ‘don’t do service’.

Responsible for recruiting, training and managing the army of 15,000 people, Ms Moir developed the ‘blended team’ approach when engaging with the massive workforce. From refreshing honesty to attract the right people, to the small gestures of recognition that kept everyone motivated, the programme focused on bringing the spectator vision to life: “Being part of the greatest show on earth.”

Ms Moir told the audience: “To exceed the previous Olympics in Beijing, we wanted to tap into the warmth and quirkiness of the United Kingdom.”

Despite the sheer size of the workforce, there were three golden rules for managing and motivating the volunteers:

  • Keeping people busy – it helps people feel that it’s a good use of the time they are giving up
  • Keep people moving – vary the role and ensure people move between tasks
  • Recognition and reward – get to know your people, their names and their personal circumstances
  • Small rewards kept people motivated (for example, bronze, silver and gold badges were awarded for consecutive days served), while surprising moments of delight kept spirits high.

Recognising that the games makers came from many different walks of life, Ms Moir explained how a simple set of customer service behaviours were established which everyone could deliver in their own personal way. These included being inspirational, distinctive, open, alert, consistent, and be part of the team.

As a final reminder of the 2012 journey, Ms Moir played a video to the audience in which London set out its bid to win the Games, concluding with the speech from Lord Coe who said at the closing ceremony: “London, when our time came, we did it right.”

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