As a pilot for 43 years and president of Voyager Jet Center, Rich Ryan knows what it takes to create excellent customer service.
Ryan leads by example and demonstrates the level of effort and commitment it takes to deliver the customer service that Voyager Jet Center, a private aircraft company, is known for.
“I think when the employees see the president pitching in, whether it’s picking up a piece of trash, flying an airplane or cleaning something, I think they know that I’m committed and therefore they should be committed,” Ryan says.
Attention to detail by all 60 of Voyager Jet’s employees allowed for $25 million in sales last year.
Smart Business spoke with Ryan about how he keeps customer service the focal point of his business.
How do you keep your employees motivated?
I’m a walkabout manager. I am in every department every day observing, showing my face and asking people how things are going. That’s a management style that’s worked well for me. Make yourself visible. Make yourself visible to the customer and to the employee. Don’t hunker down in your office, get out and about.
I also have an open-door policy. People aren’t hesitant to speak with me, because I see them every day. If you’ve ever been to a presentation by a senior executive to his staff, at the end invariably the lecturer will say, ‘Any questions?’ and people are reluctant to speak openly. So the follow up is, ‘If you have any questions that you don’t want to say now, I’ll be available in my office for the next half hour and you can talk about it.’ If I address the employees as a whole, I usually end up in that arena. Some people just don’t speak well in front of a group of people, yet they may be perfectly lucid in a one-on-one conversation.
How do you create and evaluate customer service?
Training is one way to keep the quality of service up. Voyager Jet Center spent roughly $650,000 on employee training last year. Most of that training was simulator training for the pilots, but we also train our dispatchers and our line service personnel. As a company, we sell several types of products, so our line service personnel need to be trained in safe and efficient service.
A lot of the customers are my friends or associates so I will call them and ask them or send them an e-mail and ask, ‘How was your trip last night?’ By constantly evaluating what our service is by getting feedback from our clients, we hope to improve our service.
We have evaluation forms … for the pilots to fill out who come in and buy fuel from us or use our facilities.
For employees, we have a standard evaluation process. I’m a big believer in the sandwich technique, the good the bad and the good. So I would say, ‘Mark you’re doing a great job; however, you’ve been tardy three times in the past two months, so once you correct that, overall, you’ve done a good job.’ Evaluating progress is critical. Otherwise the employee would be operating in a vacuum.
How do you improve customer service?
Listen to what the customer says and listen to what the employee says. The employee knows more about his job than you do, so listen to him and then react.
Make sure that you involve employees in the decision-making process. Push decision-making down and make sure that each employee has bought in to the goals of the company. Employees need to understand what the goal of the company is, and they need to buy in to it. By involving them in the decisions, it becomes their decision, not your decision.
How has customer service helped grow your business?
We sit in one airplane every week. We sit in it for several hours, and we open every drawer and open every table and look in every nook and cranny to make sure it’s clean and that some old magazines haven’t gotten in there. That’s very important to us.
People talk about what’s a good restaurant or what’s a good tailor and who’s a good jet provider. Who can you rely on, who’s safe? So if you have a cadre of happy customers, then they’ll tell their friends, and that’s an important manner in which to build the business.
HOW TO REACH: Voyager Jet Center, (412) 267-8000, or www.voyagerjet.com