World-class Service at International Crossroad
CapitaLand staff on ICE visit to Changi Airport Group get insider look at a customer-oriented operation
Issue: Oct 2012
The ICE visit to Changi Airport gave CapitaLand staff the chance to learn about the world’s most awarded airport, which owes much of its success to its vision, innovation and education with regard to service excellence
There was a hum of excitement as 40 CapitaLand staff were ushered into the inner sanctum of one of the world’s most decorated service providers. The Changi Airport Group (CAG) has won more than 400 Best Airport awards since Changi Airport began operations in 1981. In fact, Changi Airport has the distinction of being the most awarded airport globally. Many of their accolades have to do with their excellent service, making it an ideal candidate to share about dealing with customers.
“It is important to share know-how and this is a good opportunity for us to learn from one another,” said Tan Lye Teck, Executive Vice President, Corporate, CAG at the start of the Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship (ICE) visit.
These regular outings to various industry leaders are part of CapitaLand’s strategy for employees to learn from other disciplines, and draw valuable insights that would inspire them towards excellence.
“It’s a rare opportunity to get a guided tour of the transit area of Changi Airport. They are known to be the best so they are definitely in the forefront of things. I was quite certain I would be able to learn from them and add value to our business,” said Lee Xin Rui, Manager, Investment & Asset Management, CapitaMalls Asia.”
(Left)Tan Lye Teck, Executive Vice President, Corporate, CAG sharing the Group vision about service to CapitaLand staff and (Right) Mr Leow Siew Beng, Senior Vice President for Organisational Development (Human Resource) of CapitaLand Limited
Although CAG itself is only three years old, having come out of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) in 2009 to become corporatised, it hails from a heritage that is decades old. Throughout the years, service has always been part of its DNA. For CAG, excellent service began with a clear vision.
“Good service means different things to different people. To us, good service has to be personalised, stress-free, and positively surprising,” said Tan.
The vision to “run a good airport” was first articulated and exemplified by Sim Kee Boon, Permanent Secretary at the Communications Ministry then. He was the one tasked to manage the construction; opening; and, later, running of Changi Airport. He was the Chairman of CAAS for 15 years from 1984.
“He had a customer-first mentality and an eye for details. Nothing was too small for him to look into if it meant giving people the best experience at our airport,” recalled Tan.
As a result, Changi Airport was the first to have an air-conditioned food court which opened in the basement of Terminal One. Sim was also the one who made sure that the best hawkers were sourced and invited to open a stall at the food court so that visitors could have a taste of the best of Singapore. He even ensured that the cleaners were trained to wipe the tables with two cloths not one – the first to wipe off the dirt, the second to really clean the table.
His 12-minute rule which dictates that the first bags must be ready to be collected 12 minutes after the aeroplane lands is still being upheld as a service standard today.
No detail too small, CAG has a computerised feedback system in its toilets to help improve service
Over the years, the vision of providing excellent service has not changed. But to keep up with evolving needs, how that vision is realized has. That change began with re-inventing their thinking - CAG went from simply providing service to giving customers a “total experience”.
“Service is a monologue. Experience is a dialogue. We want to create a conversation with our customers so that we can know more intimately what they want and offer it to them,” said Jacqueline Lau, Assistant Vice President, Quality Service Management, CAG.
CapitaLand staff on a tour of Changi Airport got a first-hand taste of the “total experience”. Each was given an audio guide so that they could have access to vital information and the group would not disturb the rest of the airport’s users.
“I thought the wireless earphones were a particularly ingenious touch. It was a perfect use of technology to provide a classy solution to a difficult problem,” said Johnny Gao, Management Executive, CapitaLand Limited.
CAG counts on three pillars of service experience to create the CAG experience: product experience, process experience and people experience. At the heart of each is innovation.
CapitaLand staff got to visit the Butterfly Garden at Terminal 3, the first of its kind in an airport in the world
To begin, CAG came up with innovative products to enhance the customers’ experience of Changi Airport. It created five thematic gardens across its terminals to bring Nature indoors: Cactus Garden, Sunflower Garden, Fern Garden, Orchid Garden and Butterfly Garden, a world’s first at an airport. It introduced 24-hour movie theatres, brought in a four-storey tall indoor slide, and even created a snooze corner all for its customers’ enjoyment.
In addition, it came up with evermore creative processes for greater efficiency so customers would have a fuss-free, smooth experience at the airport.
“At Changi Airport, our wait times are kept to a minimum. For example, within 10 minutes, 90 per cent of our customers will get a taxi; they can clear the aerobridge in two minutes; immigration in eight; and the last bags are claimed within 25 minutes,” said Lau with obvious pride.
Because one of Sim’s key concerns was the standard of the airport’s toilets, innovation in its processes also extended to the toilets. Changi Airport’s toilets have computerised feedback kiosks that are part of the Instant Feedback System (IFS) that let users register their feedback of the quality of the toilets.
CapitaLand staff on a tour of Changi Airport
“Technology is an enabler of service,” quipped Lau.
Not only is the technology used to gather feedback, CAG also employs technology to process the information collected into usable tips for improvement.
“The system allows us to track the cleaner responsible for the toilet because he starts each shift by scanning his pass. This empowers them and gives them a sense of ownership. It also allows us to respond to feedback within five minutes and check on the follow-up. The entire complaint is settled within 20 minutes,” said Joe Chiu, Vice President, Corporate IT, CAG.
Thanks to the system, feedback now numbers some 355,000 a month instead of a mere 200.
“We find out a lot when we analyse the data,” said Chiu.
The real-time feedback also extends to CAG’s tenants. Patrons can key in their feedback right at the retail outlets at Changi Airport.
“I like that the tenants are also involved in their service strategies and that tenants have to agree to be included in the programme. This is indeed a great way for everyone to be on the same service par in order to deliver that unforgettable CAG experience,” said Rachel Jeanette Tan, Customer Relations Manager, The Ascott Limited.
“I was also impressed by how much they invested in technology to achieve the CAG experience,” said Tan.
Educating about Service
The Changi Service DNA- Good service has to be personalised, stress-free, and positively surprising
The third pillar of CAG’s service experience involves people service. But getting everyone at Changi Airport on board is no small matter. After all, CAG exists in an eco-system of 1,200 employees and another nearly 30,000 partners that provide a multitude of services from cleaning to maintenance, security and retail.
“They may be our partners but to our customers, they are part of the airport and so are considered part of CAG. Getting everyone on board with our service standards is, therefore, a challenge because the success of the airport depends on the entire community,” said Tan.
So, CAG has a reward system that hands out awards daily, weekly, quarterly and annually so that great service that is rendered gets a chance to be recognized all the time. In this, the IFS is an asset. CAG counts on the data received to help them identify the staff who perform well. The same system also help them to find out who requires training to improve their service.
“Their commitment to ensuring different departments work together to achieve one goal is impressive. I thought that looking out for staff who do the right thing rather than catching them doing wrong is a realistic and practical approach to improving customer service,” said Gao.
CAG’s fine example has served to inspire CapitaLand’s staff and given them insights into how this airport at the crossroad of international travels has been lauded for its world-class service.