• Scott McInnes

61 | Bringing KLM's purpose to life

In 2016, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the world's oldest airline knew it had to do something to differentiate itself in an increasingly competitive industry.

The KLM management team knew that customers had certain expectations - safety, speed, care, competitive prices and on-time flights. But these are things that are pretty easy for all airlines to achieve (to a great or a lesser extent).

So, in that world of increasing competition and decreasing prices, they had to look at some other way to differentiate themselves. The rise of no-frills airlines across Europe in the past 15 years has also lowered the bar on customer service in the industry - there was a sense of 'you get what you pay for'.

So KLM knew they had to do something different, and that meant making a difference by creating 'moments', often the very smallest of things but things which stayed with the customer.

And that meant a new purpose - 'Moving your World, by creating memorable experiences'. In the words of Peter Elbers, KLM’s CEO, "This is not an order or an objective, but the basis of our strategy for the coming years".

It needed to become part of the fabric of who they all were.

The airline knew that this couldn't be driven by management but that 'creating memorable moments' was squarely in the hands of their 33,000 staff. So they had to bring them on that journey, to show the impact that each of those staff members - from flight and cabin crew to baggage handlers, mechanics and everyone in the back office - could make every day.

Here's a great example from a pal of mine who's a KLM pilot:

"I was on a flight last year and walked into the cabin after we'd landed., I could see an elderly passenger in business class who was having trouble completing a landing card. Everyone else had disembarked and the cabin crew were busy with their jobs, so I asked if she was OK. She explained that she was having trouble and so I offered to compete it for her if she simply told me the information. For me it was an opportunity to really bring ‘Moving your World’ to life in a real way. And for her, well she got a great story about the time she got the pilot to fill in her landing card!"

The slight flip side of that coin in KLM’s thinking is that they ask their pilots to walk around business class and greet the passengers. They’re the ones that generate most of the income on the plane so that makes sense right? Yes, to a point, though I wonder what the impact would be if pilots spent time in economy, speaking to passengers, having a chat with the kids and letting them wear the Captain’s hat. In economy we have zero expectation of any of that stuff happening so when it does, the impact is significantly higher than it might be in business. And besides, just because I fly economy with my family or on holidays doesn’t mean that I don’t fly business for work. And that small interaction with my kids may result in me flying KLM business the next time.

But at its core, the plan is a good one. In order to create any kind of shift in culture yes, it has to be lead from the front but it also has to be driven from within by involving your people as a key part of the solution.


Exploring the Power of Purpose - 9th October 2019

If you want to learn more about how brands like AIB, Google, Special Olympics, Sodexo and Skillsoft bring their purposes to life then why not come to our event on 9th October. Tickets are €75 and all proceeds are being donated to Soar and FoodCloud, AIB's corporate charities

For more details, click below:

©2020 Inspiring Change Ltd, The Tara Building, Tara Street, Dublin 2, Ireland

e: hello@inspiringchange.ie