Flying has become hassle-free for most of us today. All the airlines in India (regular and low-cost carriers) are doing excellent work to ensure flyers travel with ease. However, personally of all the airlines plying in the country, I am a huge Indigo fan. I have been from the beginning and all people who know me well, know that. What I like the most about the airline is its integrity, for what they stand for and how they live up to their values from top to bottom. It is a brand that combines warmth with firmness, clarity with principles, which is evident on how these align to their every action. I have always been active in giving feedback on things they can improve on and have been truly amazed how their management is so willing to listen and incorporate that feedback ‒ big or small, in their processes. That is passion to learn and improve, which exudes a real commitment to make customer experience “hassle” free.
Today my respect took a new level for them as I happened to be a part of the audience to an incident that took place on a Mumbai- Bangalore flight. A passenger who sat on one of the emergency seats without paying refused to move after the hostess pointed out that such seats were payable. The hostess treated him with utmost respect, communicating with him at his eye level - even kneeled down next to him to talk without disturbing other passengers - everything so calmly and professionally!, even though the passenger denied his intent to either pay or change his seat. Even then, the hostess served him food and drinks politely and requested the Chief Purser to handle the situation.
And there comes the ‘leading lady’ ready to take on the case. She listened to his arguments patiently, but firmly informed him that he either needed to change his seat or pay to remain seated in the emergency row. The gentleman once again refused. She warned him that if he does not comply, she will have to inform security and the flight will get delayed further - which still does not affect the passenger who once again refused and continued to remain seated.
Despite the passenger’s stubborn behavior, I could see the Purser was calm, and after some futile efforts, went to the crew area, took the phone and started talking (I am assuming she was informing the captain). Once again, for the last time, she comes back and informs the passenger about the consequences of his action (or inaction in this case), to which the man very proudly responded by the typical remark "you don't know who am I." And again with a composed demeanor, she goes back to doing her job ‒ serving customers with a smile – as if nothing happened. Now I know a lot of protocols would expect the cabin crew of any airline to behave in a certain way, but being a frequent flyer I know that this situation was taken in a completely different stride. And certainly this is also a person-dependent thing (there could have been a hostess who completely ignored the fact that the entire incident was causing inconvenience to other passengers – or at the most delaying the flight)
As an HR professional I understand that processes and training can take individuals only as far. Indigo is great at it (they are at #1 position in transportation in Great Places to Work for many years in a row now). But it is really that sense of alignment that comes from a strong culture & DNA that can really make this happen. The alignment of a common understanding of what is right and what's not, coupled with the determination to stay on the course. In my experience, these really cannot be taught in trainings or by having structured operating procedures alone, it is much more than that. This is an amalgamation of many ingredients: from hiring consistent people who are aligned to the organization’s values, to equipping them with the right skills and competencies to manage conflicting situations, to recognizing their great work and achievements (just like the little snippets in the onboard magazine which highlights the great work of the Indigo team) and many more. All that is intertwined with the culture of the organization, and how leaders walk-the-talk themselves. Impressed to witness how strategy, values and culture can be experienced so seamlessly, so simply in every situation, especially in conflicting ones. These are the moments of truth of any brand.
As we land in Bangalore, security is waiting for the gentleman in the emergency seat while the hostess continues to smile calmly and greet everybody that is deplaning. The gentlemen will have to give lots of explanations to security and hopefully would have learnt a lesson or two about following rules that apply equally to all.
Engagement and alignment is not ‘soft’ stuff, it makes business sense. It is this approach that has probably helped InterGlobe Aviation, the owner of low-cost carrier IndiGo to enjoy market capitalization (m-cap) of 41,287.85 Crore (as of 19th of November), which is more than the combined market-cap of its two other listed peers. Go IndiGo!.