Some months back, I flew Suites Class on Singapore Airlines. The 5 hour flight from Singapore to Hong Kong wasn’t a particularly long one, but it was one of my favorite flights of my life. Rather than pay the $6,000 round-trip fare, I paid for the flight with a big handful of frequent flyer miles and $50 in taxes. Not a bad deal!
However, rather than recapping this entire flight, I thought it’d be interesting to report back on what I learned instead. Singapore Airlines is consistently ranked among the top airlines in the world for customer experience, and their outstanding service is really at its best on this unique product. I came into the flight expecting to simply relax and enjoy the luxurious amenities (and I did do that) but I was also surprised by how many small details caught my attention, from the personalized service to the chef-prepared meals.
Not many flights are that comfortable and educational, right? So let’s dive right in! Here are my top 10 business learnings after experiencing one of the top first class products in the world:
1) Attention to detail will keep your customers coming back, over and over. In Suites, every piece of the inflight experience is exquisitely crafted. Everything, down to the plates and cutlery, is coordinated to match the interior of the cabin – and the service is just as finely tuned, where even a bottle of water is poured with elegant precision! Get the small details right, and your customers will never leave you.
2) Always find elegant ways to surprise your customers. At the end of my flight, one of the lovely flight attendants came by my suite and dropped off a box of chocolates and a Singapore Airlines-themed teddy bear, saying “Thank you for flying with us Mr. Brown, we hope you enjoyed your stay in Suites today, and look forward to seeing you onboard again soon.” The kind gesture was a total surprise, and went a long way. Make it a point to surprise your customers, and you’ll consistently win fans (and more business).
3) Relationships Matter. This was a core tenet during my time at LinkedIn, and Singapore Airlines does it so well too. Before taking off, the head flight attendant, purser, and first officer all came by to introduce themselves personally, and at the end of the flight, each of them gave me their name card. I was also able to have a nice conversation with the first officer on the flight itself, and it was great learning more about what it’s like to fly with SQ for work. I appreciated not just the outstanding service, but how each crew member made it a point to connect with me on a personal level. This is so key to building trust and creating repeat customers.
4) Focus on a seamless experience. My flight in Suites was seamless, in that the entire experience started 12 hours before I even stepped on the plane. I checked in at Singapore’s private First Class terminal, and was personally escorted to The Private Room, a lounge reserved exclusively for passengers traveling in Suites. I won’t spoil the surprise, but suffice to say, there were showers, a spa, a private fine dining club, and much more. Just before taking off, a SQ representative showed up and personally escorted me all the way to the plane. This kind of service extended all the way until landing in Hong Kong, and I was so impressed at how consistent the service and personalization was across the board.
5) Focus on being world-class at just one thing. This a simple concept, but when getting pulled in so many directions each day, it can be hard to do. The truth is, Singapore Airlines does a lot of things well, but what they’re truly world-class in is customer service. Every member of the organization I’ve interacted with – from flight attendants, to first officers, to the ground staff, is top of the line. That kind of consistency is hard to find, especially in the airline industry.
6) Never stop innovating. It goes without saying, but the saying “innovate or die” isn’t hyperbole – especially for Singapore Airlines. In the face of rising competition from the ME3 and Chinese carriers, SQ has been under pressure to improve its onboard products – and it has. During my time in Suites, I was impressed by the increased wine selection, as well as the service – which I found to be more attentive than the last time I flew first class. Regardless of if you’re running a small business, or simply writing a blog like this one, always look for ways to differentiate yourself from the competition.
7) Personalization is key. On Suites, every piece of the customer experience is customized – even down to the cabin itself. I loved that my cabin even had a name card saying “This suite has been specially cleaned and dressed by (insert flight attendant’s name here)”. That level of personalization is impressive, and thoughtful touches like this will always make each customer’s experience that much better.
8) It helps to have some exclusivity. Suites is a great product, but it’s also one of many in Singapore Airlines’ diverse portfolio. That said, it’s quite difficult to book a flight in Suites, unless you have a big pile of cash sitting around, or at least 150,000 frequent flyer miles on hand (for a one-way long-haul flight) Offering an aspirational or ultra-premium product can give your brand extra cachet, and helps you push quality over quantity. If you’re a consultant, this could include offering private coaching hours with your most valued clients. If you run a marketing agency, you could offer an entirely white glove approach setup for your clients’ campaigns, with extra coaching thrown in. Name an industry, and there’s probably an ultra-premium version of your product that you can add to your lineup.
9) Give your customers some space. I love how private the Suites on Singapore Airlines are – but beyond that, the flight attendants are all incredibly attentive. I’m not sure if SQ’s cabin crew can read minds, but they always seem to know the perfect moment to come by and offer you a bowl of ice cream, or ask to make your bed (yes, there’s a full bed in Suites). I think this lesson extends pretty well to the business world too, especially as it relates to marketing. Instead of sending mass emails to your customers, try anticipating their needs, and craft a customer journey that meshes well with their behavior. Anything more is superfluous and should be cut out altogether.
10) Being genuine goes a long way. Like some of the other lessons on this list, I think this is something we all believe, but generally take for granted and don’t practice in our everyday life. I was so impressed by how warm and caring the cabin crew in Suites was. I’m sure it helped that I was one of 2 people in the entire cabin that day, but I still really appreciated their kind and thoughtful gestures throughout the flight. Don’t forget to take care of your customers and forge genuine, win-win relationships with them. It’s one of the best investments you’ll ever make, in life or in business.