Saudia to bolster customer engagement with all-woman team

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Lean Into Aviation (3)Saudia is working with airline consultancy SimpliFlying to train a team of women to handle the airline’s customer engagement online and to bolster its social media presence.

“Customer relations will move from a legacy department to online, to respond immediately to customers through a team of qualified women”, Saudia VP marketing & product management Abdulrahman Al Fahad told Runway Girl Network on the sidelines of the recent SITA IT Summit in Brussels.

“We need to respond immediately; we want to turn an angry customer into a happy customer,” said Al Fahad, who will lead the team.

SAUDIA 4Noting that Saudi Arabia has the highest number of Twitter users (the United States ranks 8th in Twitter penetration), Al Fahad said Saudia is tracking its socially active passengers, including on board aircraft equipped with OnAir inflight connectivity. “The minute they board till they leave the airport [at their destination] we are monitoring what they are saying on social media, and we are there to serve them to help them and to turn a negative into a positive, and we need a happy customer.”

Saudia’s decision to use an all-woman customer care team comes at a time when Saudi Arabia is welcoming more women into the workforce, as it seeks to diversify its oil-based economy. However, the sexes remain segregated in the workplace. At Saudia, the women handling customer engagement will “work alone [with each other] and have their own quarters so they have the privilege of doing it right without distractions from anyone”, said Al Fahad. He added, “These ladies are highly educated with English Literature degrees, and doing a tremendously good job.”

SimpliFlying CEO Shashank Nigam is assisting the airline with training. His company is also working with Saudia to “empower inflight services with [crew] tablets connected to the Wi-Fi of the airplane”, revealed Al Fahad. Dedicated teams will monitor any emails from crew and respond immediately.

Al Fahad also expressed an interest in potentially employing Google Glass on board, after SITA outlined the potential to combine Google Glass and OnAir connectivity to improve the passenger experience at the SITA Summit.

The Saudia executive believes inflight connectivity is now a ‘must have’ not a ‘nice to have’, and said customers want to fly on connected aircraft, and be connected throughout their journey (see slide below). The airline is accepting proposals to equip more aircraft in its fleet with connectivity.

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(All images from SAUDIA presentation at SITA IT conference in Brussels)