Merge's Blog

Good leaders respond to customer feedback

Three months ago, I blogged about Air Canada and its new CEO, Calin Rovinescu.  Back then, I was cautiously optimistic; after two previous CEOs, Rovinescu was a welcome breath of fresh air.  Unlike his predecessors, he actually seemed interested in what his most loyal customers had to say.  With his senior management team, he met with groups of individual frequent fliers in cities across the country to get their feedback and input on how to create a better air travel product.  I was at such a meeting in Calgary in September and I was impressed to see that his team listened, asked questions, took notes, and pledged to turn things around both for disillusioned customers and a disconnected workforce.  Big news indeed for a company that has unfortunately developed a reputation of taking its customers for granted!  So, three months later … has Rovinescu been able to alter the negative perception of Air Canada that has plagued the minds of customers and employees for several years now?

Certainly a lot of his most important customers seem to think so.  After several weeks of consulting with frequent fliers, Air Canada announced some long-awaited revisions to its loyalty program which positively addressed almost all the recurring complaints made their repeat customers.  Even though these changes didn’t go into effect until 2010, Air Canada proactively announced these in December 2009 on a travel bulletin board where many of their most engaged customers interact.  And the vast majority of the feedback to the changes was upbeat and positive.

As a frequent flier myself, I am pleased about these changes since they not only reward my loyalty to a company, but also make my life on the road much easier.  But what really impressed me was how Rovinescu and his team handled the entire process.  Here are some of the key things they did:

  • They consulted with their most important customers
  • They actually LISTENED to what was said
  • They worked to implement changes that most customers really valued
  • They proactively offered updates on the changes to their most engaged customers

And this is exactly what successful customer-focused organizations do to foster loyalty and sustain profitability – they work to open the lines of communication and dialogue with their customers!

So has Air Canada turned the corner in repairing its relationship with its customers and employees?  Well, it’s early days yet so the jury is still out; but Rovinescu and his team are certainly taking steps in the right direction.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: in my role as a leadership development consultant, I have repeatedly seen leaders turn negative situations around once they began to listen to their employees and customers, and act on what they heard.  Good job, Calin!  Keep up the good work!

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