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Customer service?

Ping! A new email in your inbox. Aha, email from SAS customer service about my request for compensation for a delay that occurred earlier when I was traveling.

Good, I will be paid a specified amount of compensation. But… I can’t get the amount to match what I have claimed. This is too little and there is no specification of what the amount is based on.

I read on and at the bottom of the email it says the case is closed. It is not possible to reply to this email. But, but, I’m not finished, I think. As a customer, I have not given the go-ahead to close the case.

I tried to write a reply, but it just bounced back with the message that the case is closed. I then tried to chat with SAS customer service.

The conversation with SAS Customer Service

I explained the situation to the SAS representative. The person I chatted with said that there was nothing to do as the case is closed.

– But reopen the case then, I thought.

– That’s not possible, was the answer.

– Why? I wondered, it should just be a matter of clicking in a field to change the case from closed to open.

– That’s just the way it is, was the very blunt answer, and also that I can create a new case if I want to continue the dialog.

– Yes, yes, but then I have to enter all the information again as your form requires it. It seems very unnecessary,” I added.

– Yes, that is the case. There is nothing I can do about it,” the service representative wrote.

The tone was short and unforgiving.

I pointed out the unsatisfactory nature of it all and wondered cautiously what happened to the spirit of Jan Carlzon.

– What do you mean? the short answer came back.

– Well, Jan Carlzon in his time advocated the importance of good customer service, I explained.

– I don’t know who that is. Is there anything else I can help you with today?” was the answer with a clear hint that the chat is now over.

I couldn’t take it anymore, I sighed and ended the chat.

So why am I telling you this?

Well, as you may have noticed, SAS has new owners. They are injecting many new billions to get the company back on its feet.

The aforementioned Jan Carlzon, who is one of my inspirations, was the CEO of SAS between 1981 and 1994. He turned the company into a very successful one and also became known for his good customer service. In just a few years, SAS went from being considered one of Europe’s worst airlines to being named ‘Airline of the Year’ by Air Transport World magazine.

The company also went in two years from a loss of $17 million per year to a profit of $54 million.

Jan Carlzon pushed the line that decisions should be made as far out in the organization as possible, where employees are close to the customer. The customer-facing employee is expected to take decisions to solve the customer’s problem. This completely changed the structure of the company.

This week, Jan Carlzon was interviewed by the media to comment on the new arrangement where SAS is owned by, among others, KLM. Jan Carlzon stresses that “now is the time to focus on customers”.
Interesting, I think, because it applies to all of us. Which we should not forget.

Focus on customer service

If you focus your business on creating value for your customers, whatever you call them, in the most efficient way possible, a lot of good will come from that.

  • Employees will be more engaged and find it rewarding to work with you.
  • It will reduce your costs for staff turnover and sick leave, and increase good suggestions for developing your business.
  • Activities that will improve your finances.

Customer service is what SAS needs, as it has been making heavy losses for many years.

So remember to put the customer first and to make sure you have an operation that really takes care of your customers’ needs in the best possible way. Don’t just say “customer centric” and then act from your own perspective. You must really mean it when you say you will focus on customers.

This week, start thinking about what and how this could happen in your country.



PS. What happened to SAS after Jan Carlzon left, how did it go so wrong, you may ask? Then I suggest you read the book SAS: Konsten att sänka ett bolag by Richard Björnelid, which shows how the wrong strategies can sabotage what was working well.