President's Message - January 2017

Posted: 11th January 2017, 1:26pm

Flying blind

As we move into 2017 and close the door on 2016, I have been reflecting on the need for businesses to focus on customers as individuals and consider the specific needs of each and every one of us as opposed to making assumptions based on a perceived grouping all label.

Two distinctly different experiences brought this home to me recently and both occurred when I was flying from England to Scotland. In the first instance, in keeping with my usual travel arrangements as a visually impaired person, I had arranged for special assistance to help me board my flight and to meet me at the other end. The process of arranging assistance, a relatively simple task one would think given that it is offered as a service to disabled passengers, was very difficult to sort out but I was eventually assured that it was in place.
 
I arrived at the airport and was shown to a seating area where I was asked to wait until someone was ready to take me to the aeroplane. Whilst in essence polite, it was obvious to me that I was part of a task that needed to be completed as opposed to being a valued customer with additional needs which the airline was happy to meet. This feeling continued during my journey to the aeroplane and whilst waiting at the other end for someone to come and collect me and take me through to the airport terminal. Indeed, it is quite a strange experience to be sat on an empty aeroplane after all the passengers of left in the hope that someone will come and rescue you. The entire experience was absolutely devoid of any communication and rapport and at no point did I feel my custom was of value to the airline.

I am delighted to tell you that my second experience absolutely blew me away. Firstly, the assistance was extremely easy to arrange by phone and the airline representative knew exactly what I needed and how she could make it happen. On arrival at the airport, at the special assistance desk I was greeted by name, shown to a seat and told that someone would be with me very shortly. As promised, the person duly arrived and helped me with the minimum of fuss to get through passport control and security and down to the gate where again I was met by staff who knew my name and knew precisely what I needed.

On boarding the aeroplane, the flight attendants made me very welcome and even the pilot came out to say hello and stroke my new guide dog Dennis who was flying for the first time. I was met by a representative again who knew my name and helped me through the terminal and enabled me to get on my way.
 
So, what was the fundamental difference between my first experience and the second? During the second experience, I was absolutely sure that this airline valued my business and had an appreciation of my specific needs without making a fuss or making it appear complicated. At no time did this feel like a task they were completing but importantly, part of the service that they provided to me as an individual based on my specific needs.

I suppose if I was to draw out one key element, it is that in the latter experience, the airline staff showed real care for me throughout, something which all businesses need to demonstrate at all times to ensure that customers get the service they truly deserve.  
 
David Clarke

Chamber President

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