Today’s interview is with Mattijs ten Brink, Chairman & CEO of Transavia, a Dutch low-cost airline which is a wholly owned subsidiary of KLM and part of the Air France/KLM group. I had a chance to sit down and chat with Mattijs when I met up with him at Pegaworld earlier this month. We talk about how Transavia competes against larger competitors, how they are building an agile and adaptable organisation, the passenger and employee experience and a fascinating piece of research around fear. This is the second of three interviews that I conducted at Pegaworld so look out for the next one coming up in the next few weeks.
This interview follows on from my recent interview – Great service and why Basecamp only focuses on a couple of channels – Interview with Chase Clemons – and is number 222 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.
Highlights from my conversation with Mattijs:
- In order to compete and make a difference in a very competitive market, Transavia knows that it cannot compete on scale and reach. Therefore, to better understand how they can continue to compete, they start by understanding their true DNA and combine that with leading technology to produce a compelling offer for their customers.
- Whilst price is an important part of their offer, they also understand that their customers use them for a range of reasons including holiday, fun, leisure and second homes. As a result, friendliness, hospitality and connecting with customers has become an important part of their DNA.
- When they get newly trained cabin attendants, Mattijs is always there to welcome them and to explain that they have the most important job in the company in that how they interact with and connect with passengers is how Transavia makes the difference to the passenger experience.
- Every passenger has a story and when they bring that story up and connect to it they can also help enrich that story.
- It’s not always possible but that is their intent.
- They use modern technology to help with this but it is always the human touch that delivers their intent.
- Building a culture of empowerment comes from how colleagues interact with each other. In fact, Transavia believes that PX (Passenger experience) = EX (Employee experience).
- They have built a culture of safety, where people can make mistakes and learn from them.
- Mattijs tells staff that if they don’t make mistakes, they are not trying hard enough.
- But, employees need to stay true to themselves so that anything they do is authentic.
- Transavia have always been customer focused in an emotional way but not always in a customer ‘service’ way as they have had a horrible on time performance in the past. This is now steadily improving but they continue to focus on the emotional connection as this is what they see as their clear differentiator.
- Their use of technology is driven by their vision that passengers and employees are part of the same equation and they come together in a flight.
- They work on three main journeys and how they interact: the flight journey, the passenger journey and the employee journey.
- Their concept is that they are building a single platform to manage all three journeys: the Transavia Interaction Platform (TIP). They chose Pega and Accenture to help them deliver that.
- In order to build and organisation that is agile, adaptable and able to deliver PX = EX, Transavia is developing it’s organisation in three phases:
- Phase 1: A leadership programme centred around developing a facilitative leadership style that supports empowerment, risk taking, learning etc
- Phase 2: The introduction of three collaborative methods: Lean, lean start-up (Ries) and agile that will all be used for different purposes and in different parts of the business.
- Phase 3: Given that they operate in a highly regulated industry (airports and airlines) but also one that is always changing (travel), they decided that to break down silos they needed to implement two different speeds of development:
- 1. Run and Optimise – (initially) most of the operational activities sit here.
- 2. Change and Innovate – (initially) most of the commercial activities sit here.
- These two are tied together by strategy and resource allocation.
- In the future, these two development speeds will converge and they will become organised around the three journeys (flight, passenger and employee).
- As result, there will be no such thing as the back office or the front office as they will be organised around the journeys.
- That is helping them achieve all sorts of efficiencies and eliminating a lot of waste as well as putting the focus where it should be.
- Currently, they have just started the implementation of Phase 2 – the introduction of the three collaborative methods.
- They only have two measurements for success:
- 1. The passenger experience measured across 26 different touchpoints (they use NPS for part of this but they have developed their own internal metric too), and
- 2. The employee experience measured across 20 different touchpoint (they use eNPS for part of this but again they have developed their own internal metric too).
- However, whilst their NPS scores are very favourable when compared to other airlines, they have noticed a difference between their NPS and eNPS scores and that their employee experience scores are not at the same level as their passenger scores. They know that they have some work to do here and that will accelerate this as their TIP platform matures.
- Transavia recently conducted some interesting research into fear, particularly when it comes to flying. This was undertaken to help them better understand fear, where it occurs and how they could help alleviate any fears. This is important to Transavia as they understand that passengers can’t enjoy a good level of service if they are gripped by fear.
- The research, conducted through actual sensors on a sample of passengers, showed that, predictably, take off, landing and the engines going into cruise mode was where fear amongst many passengers was at a heightened state.
- However, there were some surprising results that showed that many passengers were fearful:
- 1. During the Boarding process, where hundreds of people enter into a relatively confined space; and
- 2. Most surprisingly, at the moment that the pilot turns on the intercom to do his speech during the flight. The fearful moment comes in the momentary pause (1-2 secs) that occurs between the pilot switching on the intercom and starting to speak.
- Whilst Transavia may not be able to do anything about many of these moments due to the nature of flying, they can do something about that momentary pause and they know that that is their opportunity to make a difference.
- What they have also learned is that when the pilot adds in a personal message or adds something to the speech that shows that he/she has a vested interest in arriving and returning safely then that causes fear in many passengers to go down.
- They have also created a Virtual Reality (VR) experience where a passenger can ‘sit’ in the cockpit and have the pilot explain to them what they are looking and what everything does. A lot of fear comes from a feeling of a lack of control and this helps with that.
- Going forward, one of the things that is occupying Transavia is distribution and how tickets will be researched, found and purchased in the future.
- Mattijs does not believe there is any point in trying to compete with the platforms such as Google, Facebook etc by enhancing a Transavia channel. But, the key questions are: how do we know who will be the winners of tomorrow, how are customer preferences shifting and how do they (Transavia) connect such that they can build meaningful relationships with their customers, retain access to the data and continue to improve?
- We do not have the answer right now and that is what agility is all about. The answer will present itself and we then need to move fast to be able to capitalise on that.
- Another thing that Mattijs is following closely is the impact of blockchain on the airline industry and, particularly, what that will that do to the selling, reselling and pricing of tickets as well as the overall economics of the industry.
- Mattijs believes that Wow service/experience is moving to a place where it will become transformational i.e. wow will be when a company or brand enriches your own personal experience/story.
Mattijs ten Brink has been Managing Director – Chairman of Transavia since 1st Aug 2013. In 1989, he started his career as a Management Trainee at Royal Nedlloyd Group. In 1993 he made the step to UPS where he took the position of Commercial Director for the Netherlands.
His career at KLM Cargo started in 1996. He worked his way up to become SVP World Wide Operations where he was responsible for AFKL Cargo World Wide. He continued this function for 4 years before starting a new challenge as SVP Sales & Distribution AFKLMP Cargo in 2010.
In 2013 Mattijs decided to part ways with this position in order to take on a new opportunity as Managing Director with the company’s low cost subsidiary Transavia.
Transavia was founded in 1965.