Monday, November 07, 2011

How Strikes May Impact Customer Relationship Management: Air France Case Study

Customer relationship management is a science which is at the crossroad of the different functions of one company. Of course, most of it is managed by the marketing staff, as it has a lot to do with researches, and communication with customers.

But it is also a focus which th whole company must take care of. This is the reason why a lot of the time we talk about "Customer centric companies", meaning that CRM takes a core part of how a company deal with its business. But most of the time, real 100% customer centric companies does not exist, and therefore it is sometimes hard to get all the pieces together.

Air France is one of the leading airline company in the world. It secured its position thanks to its image of a premium service company. This image has been built throughout the time, thanks to a lot of details, those small details which creates the big things... One of the very good example: A lot of my American friends know Air France because they serve Champagne on board.

Air France is taking customer relationship management seriously, and they have always been a trail blazer in terms of loyalty reward program. They also make their best to respond to customer complaints as fast as they can.

But sometimes, Air France's customer relationship management is experiencing damages, due to unusual circumstances.

For this November hollidays season, Air France personnel was on strike, protesting to job cuts speculations. Due to these protests, Air France's planes had to take off with 50% of their planes empty, due to lack of staff on board. 

Air France knows how to deal with those kind of issues:

First, because they have a very competent risk management department, which has been used to deal with different kinds of problems (the Icelandish volcano crisis this year, other strikes, political issues in some countries)...

Secondly, because strikes are quite frequent at Air France. I could quote French show "Les Guignols", which mention that strikes for November hollidays season at Air France are sort of a "tradition"...

And this is a real issue: You could be as good as you can be analyzing customer data, providing high quality communication material, being responsive in crisis time, sometimes, those social events can impact big time the image of one company.

So what can Air France do?

To be honest, Air France is far from being the worst of the airlines company to work for. But the way they deal with their employees (which are by the way the first ambassador one brand can have) is very important in order to maintain a  high customer service at all time.

In overall, strikes may be prevented by having strong relationship with unions, but sometimes, they are very difficult to avoid, especially in some specific industries. 

But human resources management, and social crisis inside a company can have a large impact on one company CRM Strategy.