I am a regular traveller, especially within Africa. Most of the time I travel, I use Kenya Airways or RwandAir. I must confess that I have had issues with Kenya Airways that I stopped flying it for over two years now. Yes, you guessed right, my best African airline is RwandAir for many reasons I will not be able to enumerate here.
However, as I pull out my laptop to pen this experience, I am comfortably seated in KQ’s Boeing 737-800 from Nairobi to Kinshasa via Brazzaville, in the Republic of Congo. The two years I have not been travelling by Kenya Airways, the airline seem to have gotten its act together, and I was overwhelmed by the level of service I had been getting since I arrived at the Kenyatta International Airport and on the aircraft.
The whole experience actually started with the tight security checkpoints few miles before entering the airport area. Though the exercise of getting out of the car, going through a security scan seems cumbersome, I felt secure because of all these measures that the Kenya authorities have put in place. Remember, the country has suffered at the hands of terrorists, with devastating attack in September 2014 at the West Gate Mall in Nairobi and another one at a university campus in northern Kenya last year, among others.
Earlier, during the sixth edition of the Magical Kenya Travel Expo, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Najib Balala had reassured the showgoers, exhibitors, tour operators, travel agencies and the media that the government had heavily invested in security systems and was focussing on improving security for travellers to and in Kenya, as well as Kenyans.
So, the tight security at the airport and the smiling, kind lady, who handled my check in at the airport, gave me a positive outlook of what to expect. While waiting for my turn in the queue, I had kept wondering if she personally knew all the passengers on that flight until it was my turn to be checked in.
As I proceeded, I met another cheerful lady at the Pearl Pride lounge that was, by the way, so tastefully decorated. Being an arts lover, I toured the whole lounge admiring the beautiful art pieces on display.
I just wished many institutions in Africa will start promoting our beautiful art decoration materials available all over the continent. I have never understood why we still have in our offices, homes, hotels, restaurants, institutions “cheap” Chinese wall frames rather than those made by our own local talented artists.
If Africans, we do not value and appreciate that which is Made-in-Africa, no one will do that for us. That’s the sad reality. It is high time we used, ate, consumed and promoted Made-in-Africa products.
Anyway, this is a story for another time.
Back to the unexpected service I received on board the KQ550 flight...Though there were no passenger blankets, the service was far better than I can remember; the captain reduced the air-condition in the plane when some of the passengers complained; when I told the smiling air hostess, Merrice, of the lack of hand lotion in the business class washrooms, she offered me her personal hand cream.
Details, such as the two examples above or the fact that there were no French magazines on a flight with solely French speakers, probably the result of turmoil the airline is going through at the moment, the professional teams try hard to make it up for any shortfalls.
From the lemon tea to the tomato mozzarella salad, served with exclusive trouillard champagne I was amazed by the team’s efforts in maintaining service standards.
From the expensive Cognac VX to the duty free shop onboard, I just feel like supporting them and hoping they will soon overcame their internal challenges.
Often, when companies design complex marketing and financial strategies, they forget that the most efficient way of reaching their targets is having the customer as the centre of those strategies.
Strategies will always fail if employees are not involved when drafting them. Because good customer service experiences happen when these two intertwined elements work in good symbiosis and in perfect harmony.
It is for these reasons that it is important for companies going through hard times to listen to both their internal and external customers’ feedback. Though Kenya Airways is currently flying through turbulence, I am happy to have experienced a good service amidst all this.
Let us all support them so that Kenya Airways can continue to be “our pride” because the East Africa region and the entire African continent need them for our growth.
KQ is our own, no matter the African country we come from, and, as Africans, we need to support one another, lest others take up these opportunities under our own eyes.
The writer is a customer service consultant and the publisher of www.theservicemag.com