Flight Plan

Empathy is the need of the hour

Santosh Chand | Updated on May 30, 2021

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Demand for proactive customer services

The Covid-19 pandemic has completely altered all aspects of modern living, creating radical disturbances across the world. When it began, we started learning new ways of coping with the changes around us. It is now apparent that we need to continue to learn and adapt.

Organisations emerging from the crisis realise that the workforce requires new capabilities to face the future. While most functions struggle to navigate the impact of the pandemic, customer support has experienced a wild swing in volumes and approach. And support teams in the aviation industry have borne the brunt of a multi-pronged attack.

Progressive organisations immediately responded to the potential health risks of employees, transforming conventional on-site work to a work from home arrangement. Agile plans were needed for managing consumer expectations. India’s airlines industry shouldered the responsibility of supporting over 20 million guests impacted by the suspension of aviation in 2020.

As torchbearers of efficiency and customer service, leading brands, especially in travel and hospitality, led the way with proactive customer services. Customer support functions across airlines witnessed an unprecedented surge in queries, concerns and requests across channels, accentuated by ever-changing state and regulatory restrictions, advisories and guidelines. Airline operators re-visited and amended support policies to assist guests, ensured that their websites and communication channels carried the latest information, provided recovery options for passengers with medical conditions and alternative solutions to relieve guests apprehensive about travelling during the pandemic.

In such times, the need of the hour was to exhibit empathy, putting people over processes and addressing guests’ concerns. Given the upsurge, managing these with existing support structures wasn’t enough. This encouraged service brands with the appetite to invest in the future to reinvent their customer engagement functions in a manner that was more meaningful and humane.

The year has been extremely challenging and yet rewarding for ‘Customer Happiness’ teams. We have learnt a great deal about our organisations and processes, about whom we serve, how best to do it — and about ourselves in this process. We will emerge together as better professionals and better people, with greater resilience, agility and human values.

Santosh Chand


The writer is Customer Happiness Head, AirAsia India

Published on May 30, 2021

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