Lost and not found: Hospitality at KLM

KLM Hospitality customer experienceTraveling the world, my wife and I often use KLM, especially for specific destinations. Dutch pride, good service, decent food, value for your money and at the same time they often fly us non-stop to where we need to be! Unfortunately, we have seen an interesting and rather disappointing/concerning/ uninspiring development.

KLM, what happened?

I still remember one of my first KLM flights from Accra, Ghana, back to Amsterdam 8 years ago. A warm welcome entering the plane, amazing atmosphere, pleasant team dynamics. When the meals were served, my nose was pleasantly surprised, an amazing meal with cauliflower and meatballs served with love and a smile.

There’s always the moment that most fall asleep, but I’m not really the type that closes an eye on a plane. I was one of the few up, but the flight attendant made sure I was taken care of with pure sincerity. Even though I was young and flew economy class, she made me feel like the king of the skies! And I’m still grateful for that treatment. I secretly hope to have an amazing experience like that again!

I fly KLM more frequently than I used to and found that the service has declined tremendously on so many levels over the past year. The entire customer experience, from the booking process, the automated baggage drop of at Schiphol, to the customer service center and the simple process of changing seats has become so user unfriendly that I have come to dread the process!

In the past on-board service compensated for the lack of service and comfort on the ground.  Staff was friendly, welcoming and demonstrated superb hospitality but lately, things are drastically changing in the sky. Take my last few flights from Amsterdam (Holland) to Calgary (Canada).

The team dynamic is nearly non-existent. The staff acts almost like robots, without common sense and an authentic sense of hospitality making the customer feel like an inconvenience rather than a valued partner. More often staff is dictated by stressed pursers, who are supposed to be the team leaders and set a positive example. Many have even lost their smiles! The odd individual puts in extra effort to make the customer truly satisfied. It’s those individuals that I applaud and try to give  personal compliments on my trips to encourage their way of working.

Besides a decreased level of service, the famous welcome almonds are no longer served, the face cloth is no longer steamed, the iconic square bottles of water are cut back to only one a flight and the refreshing snack in the form of ice cream or chips is no longer offered.  The served meals are more limited than before, and breakfast has all but disappeared. Oddly enough, the tickets got more expensive!

So much for all the reasons I once became a proud KLM customer and later a frequent flyer. Although I guess for now, we still get a free blanket and headphones.

Long story short, KLM misses out on huge opportunities to exceed the customers’ expectations and actually surprise them by creating an amazing customer experience and engagement.  The general decline of hospitality leads me to believe that staff are unhappy and dissatisfied with their current work environment.  This is another example of how staff satisfaction has a direct impact on the customer experience.

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