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Scoot CEO acknowledges service lapses: Will his words help in the route to recovery?

Scoot has not had the easiest year with its service. Earlier this month, the airline made an emergency landing in Chennai due to a smoke alert and also was involved in a false bomb threat situation. Fortunately, there were no casualties reported by the airline. Meanwhile in December the airline was called out by passengers over lack of communication from the airline when one of Scoot’s flights departing Taipei was unfortunately extensively delayed for two days to 1 January 2019 morning, causing 356 passengers to alter their New Year’s plans.

Acknowledging its service delays and disruptions dating back to as early as November 2018, Scoot’s CEO Lee Lik Hsin said the airline is “not perfect” and there is “always work to be done”. In an interview with CNA, Lee revealed that the major flight disruptions have taken a toll at the airline’s on-time performance (OTP) metric, which refers to the level of success of the particular service remaining on published schedule. According to Lee, utilisation rate for its fleet of flights had to be reduced to improve overall OTP.

One particular point Lee mentioned was the use of two methodologies in its post flight survey that measures customer satisfaction. Agreeing that Scoot still has a long way to go before winning back trust and satisfaction, Lee added that the airline is and will be turning towards social media platforms as an alternative means of customer feedback and to ensure communication.

Scoot has yet to respond to Marketing‘s request to elaborate more on improving standards and current measures.

While the CEO has certainly acknowledged the airline’s service lapses in the past, and is continuing to front the recovery process, PR professionals Marketing spoke to said that “acknowledgement is important, but not nearly enough.” Martin Alintuck, SEA managing director, Ruder Finn Asia said that customers will not fly with the brand until and unless they have total confidence in the airline delivering on its promises. “Confidence is gained only by experiencing what the airline provides,” he added.

While it is unclear when or how long it will take for Scoot’s improvements to make an impact, customers naturally look for immediate changes, he added. “Consumers don’t want to wait to see improvement. If they are flying Scoot from Singapore to Krabi today, they want a great experience today. One hopes Scoot’s improvements will be obvious to customers immediately. If not, they are just words,” Alintuck said.

Lars Voedisch, managing director, PRecious Communications had a different take on what the CEO said in his interview. “Using technical terms such as on-time-performance or net promoter score and also laying out the strategies Scoot is deploying in the interview shows lack of empathy,” he said.

Voedisch added that the CEO could have talked about the people in general, instead of processes and measures. “What’s lacking from the interview is a feel of empathy. There’s a saying that goes ‘nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.’ And that part isn’t sufficiently addressed,” he said.

However, he praised CEO Lee for acknowledging the different measures in place to address the root cause of the previous problems as well as the airline’s move to listen to customer feedback. “But all those strategies will just be lip service until the next flight disruption shows how Scoot will handle it hopefully better than in the past,” Voedisch said.

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Meanwhile, from a branding perspective Luke Lim, group chief executive officer at Louken Group, said that while the CEO can be applauded for his actions in addressing matters at hand,  going forward, if recovery is not ensured, Scoot’s brand equity to “go down the drain”. He said:

All its goodwill will be flushed down and consumers will be less forgiving the next time round.

“The airline must recover the service part and prove to customers,  he said, given the many alternative and competitive options available. In addition, given that Scoot is part of Singapore Airlines, there will be a potential distant backlash from the other end.

Nonetheless, Lim added that Scoot’s recovery plan on social media could help matters, if it’s able to create an internal branding and communications strategy to come across as reliable. Its communication, as well, has been previously called out for being lacklustre. “Customers will be able to see the life within Scoot and it is a fun way to rebuild the brand,” he added.

Agreeing with Lim is Kevin Kan, former managing director of AIMIA, who said Scoot has always had a reputation for creative fun in their campaigns and could leverage this “fun” concept to communicate the improvements. Kan also applauds Scoot for utilising digital and social media to enhance communications with customers.

“With the aim of improving service to customers, they should track their progress and communicate what improvements have been implemented. A lower cost of brand awareness is telling people about changes and saving time and money on constantly creating new campaigns to engage the customer,” he added.

Meanwhile, Alintuck said the brand should involve customers interactively so they will feel that they have a stake in the improvement of Scoot service. “Scoot should be making a grand gesture to showcase the improvements such as asking customers to engage in letting them know if the changes are making a difference,” he added.

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