BusinessDay

Nigeria is one of our top three biggest markets in Africa – Colleau

Michel Colleau is the general manager, Air France KLM Nigeria & Ghana. In an interview with IFEOMA OKEKE in Paris, he speaks about Air France/KLM redesigned Airbus 330 and how this has improved customer experience on board. He also speaks on Nigeria’s key position in the African market.

Can you speak about your redesigned Airbus 330 and why you invested a lot just to enhance customer experience?

The redesigned Airbus 330 is great, especially with our Air France customer experience. What we experience in the lounges of Air France and KLM is the customer experience. We always improve our products with the intention to have the best of class of products and achieve customer satisfaction. Customers have the choice and they want the best. So that is why we strive to give the best customer experience always.

How is this extra attention you give for customer experience affecting passenger traffic? Have you observed any increase?

It increased the loyalty and confidence of passengers and allows us to take a greater part of this market because when customers are satisfied, their needs are being provided and they are known, understood and followed all along, they feel more inclined to come back. Even when you keep high standards of follow-up and support for customers, they feel confident and comfortable and they will come back.

What position does the Nigerian market occupy in patronage and passenger traffic for Air France/KLM in Africa?

Nigeria is one of the top three countries in Africa. However, it differs year after year, depending on the economy of the country and competition, amongst others. However, Nigeria is among the top three, sometimes number one, some other times number two and some other times number three, in terms of market in Africa for Air France and KLM. So, you cannot be in Africa if you are not in Nigeria.

You talked about attention to detail on the chairs, the bars and the entire space in Air France cabins. What does this entail?

In Nigeria, we try as much as possible to strive for these details and we constantly follow-up our customers. We are 65 colleagues in Air France and KLM in Nigeria. Following the results of satisfaction on-board, in the lounge or purchasing areas, we have implemented training courses and projects. We care for our customers and we really try to give the possibility for every staff to know the customers, anticipate his needs and to be able to go the extra mile to make him comfortable. So, the experience is really personalised for customers and every staff. Every person is trained in Nigeria to give their best and make the customers comfortable.   

What is the secret behind your success as one of the oldest airlines in the world, yet still retaining good market share?

We always wish to enhance the customer experience and to give the best of the French service on board and on the ground. We try to take on board the best of what France has to offer, thereby achieving customer intimacy. Customer intimacy is something we do locally and we try to maintain the strategy of getting closer to the customers with the local teams that are permanently reminded and trained on how to do that.

We try to know the needs of our customers as regards this intimacy. For Africa and Nigeria, I will say we have built a history of trust. Air France/KLM operates 48 destinations in Africa. So, it is very convenient for people to travel using Air France/KLM. We operate the dual strategy, giving customers more flexibility. It is easy to combine the fares, from Paris, we fly to many destinations and from Amsterdam, we fly to other destinations. So, from Africa to Africa, either with Air France or KLM, you can really go anywhere. For Nigeria, we are partnering very strongly with Delta Airlines to offer passengers flights into Atlanta and New York.

We are aligning our approach to customers with Delta Airlines. For customers that fly to US, they can mix completely the fares and the product. You can fly one way to Atlanta; you return the other way to Paris. One other thing that makes us special world-wide and also in Nigeria is that 0n-top of the personalisation with customers, we have a dedicated approach to corporates in Nigeria especially in the oil and gas industry. We also have start-ups that create the need for travel.

We have a separate approach for corporate customers and we give them regular discounts to the destinations they fly to. We have special products for SMEs and it is very flexible because either you are into cargo or passenger operations, it gives you possibility for reduced tickets and upgrades. This is online and very flexible, again aligning cargo and passenger business gives more opportunities. So the corporate approach, dual strategy and customer intimacy give us that leverage for customers to be very comfortable with Air France and KLM.

What efforts are you making to make your operations environmentally friendly?

We are very concerned of our environmental footprints. So we try to reduce the consumption of fuel per passenger and per kilometre. We go for new aircraft and there are techniques for the captains to optimise the fuel consumption. There is a system to compensate the customers for the consumption of carbon gas. So, there is a complete consciousness and we are citizens of the world and not only working for the airline. So everybody understands the need to reduce the single use of plastics.

With the extent of the services you are creating, there are likely to be some challenges passengers may still encounter. What do you think these challenges are and how can they be addressed?

Some passengers who often encounter challenges could be those not used to travelling. Travelling can create anxiety or problems. So, we try to also take care of these passengers. For passengers that can travel on their own, some are not always comfortable in the air. In an industry where there could be weather problems, we need to create solutions for customers not to suffer from this. One of the goals of this personalisation is to try to minimise the anxiety as much as possible. In some situations there are growing anxieties that we try to minimise.

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