It almost sounds too good to be true: simple, convenient, and effortless travel on an all-you-can-fly airline. Surf Air has made it a reality.
Founded in 2013, the company provides its members with unlimited private flights, without the hassles of commercial airports. The Southern California-based Surf Air, which began with 12 employees, now has a team of 180 tasked with giving customers the best air travel experience possible.
We talked to Surf Air’s senior vice president of customer experience, Emily Watson, to learn how they manage growth, while maintaining the service level their members know and love.
An amazing customer experience is core to Surf Air. Can you share why?
Our community, the network, and the connections that are established are what sets us apart. We’re not flying passengers, we’re flying our members and their guests. A consistent experience is critical as we strive to earn their loyalty and support for the long haul.
What are some of the special touches you offer members?
The people. That familiar face, whether it be their pilot or concierge or the relationship they’re building with their personal Member Care Manager. Our members are greeted by name. They can also share in the membership community by attending one of our member events or enjoying some of the added benefits of the partnerships we’ve procured on their behalf. Ultimately, it’s about the special touch of getting back time in their life to focus on what they want.
Why is so important for growing businesses to pay attention to the customer experience?
Member retention drives our success and the organic growth through member referral is a significant piece of the pie. We want our members to genuinely share their experience and resonate enthusiasm for the club in which they are a part. Simply put, we have members, not just passengers
What kind of responses have you gotten from members?
The most rewarding sentiment is when our members tell us we’ve changed their lives and they now can’t imagine what they would do without us in the equation.
Can you share a couple of customer experience success stories?
We have a member that chooses a destination every Wednesday to fly to for a day excursion just because he can. We’ve had several members who have been able to jump on a quick flight to see the birth of their child or grandchild. One member had breakfast in Los Angeles, lunch in Santa Barbara, and dinner in the Bay Area.
The one that still touches my heart the most though is our day with Maddox and his dad. Maddox is a little boy who is terminally ill and loves airplanes. He was brought to our attention by the wife of one of our pilots. We flew him and his dad up to San Carlos, California for the day where he got to hang out at the Hiller Aviation Museum, have lunch at the Sky Kitchen, and be escorted via ground transportation by a local fire engine.
Do you worry that as you grow, some of the personal touches will go away?
No. As a young start-up we can in some cases be limited by all the necessary resources and infrastructure. As we mature, we’ll have more efficiencies in place to do even more for our members.
How do you make sure your service level stays consistent no matter how big you get?
It starts with who we recruit. And we do what we can to focus our attention on whether future teammates will be a good cultural fit. So much can be taught, but you first need an innate ability to want to take care of people. Establishing performance metrics is also critical to make everyone within the organization accountable for their individual or team’s part in the big picture.
Why is it important to get the right processes in places early on?
It’s important to get the right processes in place at an early stage to ensure a consistent experience. That said, we are also constantly learning and want to have a team that can be nimble and adaptable so we can continue to stay at the forefront of our innovative model.
How can other small businesses do the same?
Don’t reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to. Salesforce, for example, is proven to be the best sales customer relationship management (CRM) tool, so why complicate measures by starting elsewhere? Establishing your list of essentials in the beginning will help you devise a plan. Be patient and realistic, but not afraid to have lofty goals.
Watch this video to learn more about how SurfAir manages growth and consistently delivers an amazing customer experience. You can also read Surf Air's full customer story here.