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Growth – How Air Caraïbes has set a course towards trust?

16th July 2019
An exemplary consistency. From customer relations to CSR and HR, including pricing: at Air Caraïbes, everything contributes to creating a satisfying customer experience. The in-depth testimony of Patrick Malval, President of Air Caraïbes – a visionary, whose very inspiring, and a little alarmist, words concern all sectors of activity.

What kind of trust Relationship is established between a customer and an airline?

Flying is not natural! An airline customer has no control over anything, so he or she may feel very vulnerable or even panicked.

Hence the need for very deep trust: to reassure yourself that you are entrusting your life to this company rather than another.

How do you define your customers?

At Air Caraïbes, we mainly address an affinity customer base. We consider ourselves above all as a Caribbean company, whose historical origins are located in the Vendée region, France.

For our 6 million annual passengers, often from the West Indies, we are the Caribbean company, based in Pointe-à-Pitre, Fort de France, Cayenne and Orly.

What characterizes your company’s customer relationship and experience?

For our Caribbean customers, we are the company of the West Indies, its flag bearer in a way. Therefore, when we make a small mistake, it is quickly reflected on social medias with arguments like: “As a representative of the West Indies, you can’t do this or that”.

Moreover, we have a customer base that loves or discovers the West Indies. In her feedbacks, she appréciâtes “being already in the West Indies” when she gets on board.

Hence our choise to make announcements in Creole. And to serve local meals and drinks: otherwise, on a flight to Guadeloupe, for example, we could be accused of offering rum from Martinique, and vice versa!

We are committed to taking care of every detail, helping our passengers to feel good, and thus to be confident.

To be even closer to them and to the crews, we have even chosen to settle in each of our sites – Pointe-à-Pitre, Fort de France, Cayenne and Orly.

However, the most “rational” solution would be to centralize everything in Paris in order to rationalize the organization and reduce costs. But it’s our choice.

Our relationship and customer experience are therefore focused on proximity, trust, caring and attention to detail.

What are the values held by your company?

We consider that we have a real responsibility in the promotion and defence of these territories.

There, you will see our Air Caraïbes banner at sporting or cultural events. It has a high cost… but it is the people who ask us to be present.

In fact, we no longer need to gain notoriety, but we consider that this presence, as flag bearers, is part of our responsabilities, our support in a way.

Another example is that we are in the process of opening a flight training centre in Guadeloupe. People from the Caribbean and even the southern United States will be able to come here for training. We therefore bring investments from metropolitan France and Europe to create value locally.

I would add that our pricing policy is also respectful of our customers, and that it aims at a long-term relationship. That is why, unlike current practices in air transport, we do not take advantage of peak periods to apply significant additional costs.

How do your values appear to your customers?

With a focus on the development of local culture, we attach great importance to our CSR commitments.

For example, to reduce the noise, fuel consumption and pollution of our aircraft, we have invested heavily in Airbus A350s equipped with new generation engines. This environmental choice entails very significant additional economic costs.

But this makes us one of the most advanced airlines in terms of CO2 and noise generation.

In this way, we hope to contribute to responding to emerging criticisms, such as flygskam – literally the shame of flying in Swedish.

What characterizes the Air Caraïbes employer brand? What influence on the customer experience?

Our proximity to our 1100 employees translates into a very low turnover. This good relationship, based on mutual trust, is finally passed on to our customers. The majority of our customers are repeaters!

We enjoy a very high level of loyalty… which encourages us not to relax our efforts! Because when a loyal customer is disappointed, he can do a lot of damage to a brand.

Returning to our teams, we note a commitment – and even pride – in working at Air Caraïbes.

We believe that this positive spirit is partly based on our local development policy and our CSR. As proof, the discussions held by our employees and union représentatives concern topics such as reducing or eliminating the use of plastic. This collective intelligence is a source of constant initiative and improvement.

I often quote Saint-Exupéry’s phrase “The greatness of a profession is to unite people”. We are a complex and highly responsible business: we are a service company, focused on human relations.

In return, we collect verbatims such as: “Your crews are nice… They are always smiling… They show empathy… They have something you can’t find anywhere else…”.

Despite the high quality of our planes or our meals and drinks, for example, we always risk losing a customer if we do not behave properly with them!

What defines your phone customer relationship?

We have found that our customers need to be addressed in the same way every time. We try to get the same tone everywhere: when the captain or crew addresses passengers, or when we process a ground request, for example. This applies to the phone.

Our call rate is very high for an airline. That’s how it is, our customers need to talk and be in touch with a human being. They call us on the phone because they know that they will be treated well there too.

The request I made to Webhelp is to give our agents a great deal of autonomy*. Like Air Caraïbes employees, they must be able to make décisions when they discuss with the Customer. And in the event of a dispute, I prefer not to impose checks on our clients.

We must spread this spirit: you can trust us, talk to us, we will find a solution for you no matter what.

And I regularly pick up the phone to tell a Customer myself tha I come to apologize. A company must be able to acknowledge its mistakes and apologize.

How do you work with Webhelp?

Previously, we had our own call centres. But our growth has led us to make this new strategic challenge: Webhelp will help us grow. This large organization will allow us to achieve objectives that we may not have set for ourselves.

When I visited the call centres in Lisbon and Madagascar, I was able to appreciate the great cohesion in the way we talk to our customers.

Another Reason for satisfaction: the great richness and human diversity of the Webhelp teams, very close to that of our company.

What is your vision for the future? What recommendations would you make to companies in any sector?

I think that companies must move away from their short-term vision. Look at the state of the world: people have lost confidence, hatred and populism are growing, everyone is cowering on themselves and living in fear of others…

This global situation is due, to the economic model of some large companies. Those who only think of serving their shareholders, without taking into account human beings or the planet, and who only aim to maximize short-term profits. As for their organizational model, and sometimes their customer relations, they are based on authoritarianism rather than listening.

I think this business model is dead.

Of course, companies must ensure their development. But the current disorder comes from those who do not take their societal, ecological and human responsibilities.

It is now vital to develop kindness, to restore meaning to what we do, to create sincere empathy. In our company we try to preserve jobs, respect our partners, make sure that our employees and customers feel well.

Yes, I am an idealist, and I will not change that: it is my way of giving the company and myself a long-term vision.


Article by: Marion Windels

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