Sunday, September 23, 2007

Learnings from across industries

In 2005 air travellers in India had huge gift in the form of Kingfisher Airlines . Since it's inception the airline has raised the bar for service in the aviation industry . As someone who has travelled extensively within India and internationally - I can state that Kingfisher's service is outstanding and consistent when compared with international airlines too . By focusing on the customer Kingfisher has catalysed significant improvements in service in the airline industry . Certainly a case where competition has benefited the consumers in ways more than one .
It was interesting to watch the response of the other airlines mired in their ways of working and their culture . At first the approach seemed to be " this is a flash in a pan . they won't be able to live upto their promises " . Jet Airways until then was perceived as being most efficient . Post Kingfisher they seemed stodgy and not so customer friendly . Even Indian Airlines has become less unbearable than they used to be . Of course the overall growth in the number of airlines has impacted the industry and the service standards - there is no doubt that Kingfisher made the "king's contribution " to enabling this much needed change ( growth in the number and network of airlines keeps Kingfisher on it's toes ! )
Point is that even companies within an industry seem to take a while ( longer than they should have ) to evolve to respond ( if not lead ) in the changing competitive landscape .
The lessons seem quite lost across the borders of the industry .
This struck me while visiting a mall in Mumbai few weeks ago . Stores , malls in India ( at least the ones I have visited ) tend to approach service as something they need to extend to a customer once he /she has stepped inside the store . And their liability to offer any service remains only as long as the customer is within the defined physical space they see as "their premises" . This tended to be the approach of airlines too e.g the airline's service started once you got to the airline counter and then the inflight service . Kingfisher changed it by posting their representatives at most airports right from the entrance . They help you unload your luggage and get it inside the airport . Similarly at the arrival section at most airports . Strangely , no other airline has so far chosen to offer this thoughtful service to it's customers .
This is much needed service in the retail sector today in India. And it would be easier to organise for a retail establishment than for an airline .
While individual stores may or may not be able to offer this service there is no doubt that malls , stand alone department stores can easily offer a service of helping consumers get a taxi or an auto .This service alone can make consumers prefer to frequent the mall / store that offers this service .
On the physical front all it would take is to put up a signboard indicating the taxi/auto stand , a person or two whose only mandate is to ensure transport for the consumers who wait in the line
( necessary in a country like India where taxi / auto drivers will choose whether or not they wish to go to the destination where the consumer wishes to travel to ) . The tougher bit is for malls / dept stores to rethink their concept and scope of service .

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