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Seven steps to better customer serviceSeven steps to better customer service

As a flight school operator, you’re in the service business. Or put another way, you’re in the peoplebusiness. While you may spend a lot of time keeping your airplanes safe and legal, making sure your books balance each month, and figuring out new ways to get students in the door, you may be losing more than you think through lackluster customer service.

Let’s take a look at some of the more common faux pas in flight training customer service, and what can be done about them.

  1. Come to the understanding that your customer’s satisfaction is only as good as their overall experience with you. At the end of the day, how your customers felt about their experience with you is really what matters. In this area, perception is reality for them, and ultimately for you, too. How are you gauging your customers’ perception of their experience with you? Most schools don’t pay much attention to this important aspect of keeping business they already have. One recommendation I have made for schools is to have the owner (or the most senior person at the school) spot check five students or renters per month with a quick phone call asking them about their recent experience.
  2. Maintain an impeccable say/do ratio. Or, as an old boss of mine once put it- “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.” Mistakes and unforeseen events happen. Sometimes, things just can’t be helped. Striving to not overpromise and under deliver is a habit, and is an overall function of your business’ culture that has to start with you.
  3. Empower your employees. Train your employees well, and clearly communicate to them what you expect from them in how they interact with your customers, for example, that you expectthem to be nice, on time, presentable, organized, and ready to anticipate your customers’ needs. As a leader in your business, take the steps necessary to empower them to respond to your customers’ needs within the policies and principles of your business.
  4. Set expectations early for your students and renters. People are the most malleable with respect to change, procedures, and policies at the beginning of a relationship. Strike while the iron is hot with your new customers. Let them know that having them as a customer involves a partnership, explain to them how partnerships work at your school, and carefully listen to what they have to say as well.
  5. Got social media? Tend to it carefully and daily. Positive and affirming comments from customers and friends help to keep things rolling along. Negative comments are inevitable, however. Be ready to address them head on if they occur. Saying or doing nothing is almost always a poor choice.
  6. Make it a point to treat your customers well. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Make sure that anyone you have interacting as a “first responder” with customers has the personality and mindset for it. Any warm body with a pulse and available time on a Sunday to man your dispatch desk and the phones can be a costly choice if they’re not the right person for the job.
  7. Have a standing policy on “alternate plans.” Sometimes things just don’t go as planned. An airplane doesn’t return back on time, an instructor gets ill unexpectedly. Being ready to supplant your customer’s scheduled activity with another should be part of your business model planning and many schools do this with one or two redundancies built in.

Excellent customer service is no accident. This area is one where many flight schools repeatedly do poorly. The least expensive customers to get are ones that you already have. Don’t let poor customer service get in the way of them staying with your school for the long haul.

P. Jerry Lee is president and founder of aviation marketing and sales training firm Mach1 Consultants.

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