Some of you may have read my article last October 31, 2011 regarding my harrowing ordeal with the PAL strike. This is a continuation of that saga from a different perspective.
Last November, my family and I flew to Guam via Philippine Airlines for a week long holiday. For my husband and I, the check-in process was an ordeal. The gentleman checking us in was pleasant but somewhat clueless and quite nosy. He asked questions that, to us, didn’t seem to have anything to do with the check-in process, such as ‘why are you going to Guam?’ He also asked questions for information that was on the ticket. My husband was by that time getting annoyed and told him point blank ‘the information is on the ticket!’
In addition, the gentleman had trouble navigating through computer screens and kept asking the person next to him what to do. Unfortunately that person was also having difficulty navigating through the computer system.
To cut a long story short, this led me to think about training and skills development, cost cutting vs customer service, the value of employee experience and lastly, the importance of well executed strategies.
Strategy is execution. To me this is critical. It is far better to have a mundane strategy that is well executed than a ground breaking strategy that is badly executed. As I waited and waited through the check in process, I looked around to see who was supervising. There appeared to be one person but he was overwhelmed. It appeared that the outsourcing strategy was financially correct but not well executed. Since many of the experienced employees opted not to join the outsourced company, the arm chair generals i.e. managers, directors, vice presidents etc. should have left their desks and become check in personnel. Not very glamorous but necessary.
The value of experience. I have watched the careers of people from different industries, it is indeed true, there is no overnight success. It took me 10 - 15 years to rise to the top of my organization. I have seen the same time span for those in other industries, finance, design etc. In fact, it has been measured that it takes 100 hours of experience to become ‘expert’. To outsource three major areas simultaneously, check-in, catering, and ground crew, is a highly risky move as you are significantly lowering the experience level in three areas at the same time. What is the cost? Service and customer satisfaction.
My family said after the flight to and from Guam, ‘next time let’s just fly Continental.’ Why? Because they felt the experience was not pleasant or efficient. I realize there are circumstances and facts that I am not aware of, but this was the unsolicited reaction of my family.
Cost cutting vs customer satisfaction. Obviously, my family was not satisfied with their experience and opted to fly another airline the next trip. If you weigh the price of restructuring for greater profitability vs. long term customer satisfaction and loyalty, it was a high price to pay for greater profitability. If the company is in survival mode, this is an acceptable price to pay, but the cost to win back customers in the future will also be high.
Training and Skills Development. Training and Skills Development can come in many forms. It can be via class room training, one on one training, mentoring. Training and Skills Development can also be delivered via different methodologies i.e. role playing, simulations, text books etc.
What I observed in this case was the absence of mentoring. As I mentioned earlier I only saw one supervisor who was clearly overwhelmed but what was needed was someone closely watching the backs of each of those checking in customers. Since this resource was not available, the employees resorted to asking the customers for help by asking the customer for information which was at their finger tips and or asking for help from equally inexperienced co-workers.
In many companies, when the search for profit is urgent, training and skills development is one of the first budgets to be cut. I was guilty of this behaviour. Why? Because the effect of training and skills development is often intangible and long term. The need for profit is concrete and short term based. But as my HR Head used to tell me, “later on you will complain about the level of skill our employees have! But it’s because you cut my budget!!!’ So true. So tru
* * *
About the Author
Malu Dy Buncio is the Chief Business Development Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc., the only training and consultancy firm focused on marketing, sales, strategy and innovation. She is also available to facilitate customized strategic and business planning sessions for clients. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.