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How to grow an aviation operations business? - Part Three

Services and customer support

Expand current offerings with complementary services 

One of the easiest ways to grow your business and have more flights booked more often is to expand your services. If you already have clients, they already like you and your business and they are regularly using you, they are the easiest people to then offer new things to.  

For example, if you are a tourism operator, perhaps there are some new tour flights you could offer that are either longer or shorter than the rest of your offerings. Or you may join two of your shorter tours together at a slightly cheaper rate than someone booking them separately. This gives people the opportunity to spend more money, while at the same time getting more value.  

If you are in commercial operations, there may be a new winch or hook you need to purchase that then opens you up to a whole new industry or type of flying. There will obviously be a cost to this but if you can determine a market for that or a client who is keen to use it, the cost would be made back quickly. Also, some training of your staff or employing a new staff member who has other skills (night flying, different commercial experience etc) may open up the possibility of engaging with customers in other types of flying.  

Another smaller base in a different location could be a way to expand your offerings by opening up a whole new area of operation. The cost of this will need to be well thought out and the numbers done but if there is enough business in a location and you have the staff to operate a second base, this could be a really good way to add value to the business.  

The best way to find these potential new services and offerings is to be regularly talking to your "best fit" clients and finding out what other problems they have. These problems may be nothing related to something you do currently but could spark ideas of ways you could solve for your clients, or may even give you an opportunity to pivot quickly. For example, if all of your clients love the agricultural spraying you are doing for them but they are struggling to get supplies moved around their farm and it's taking them hours to get things from point A to point B, perhaps an offering for cargo transportation could solve that for them. 

The other place to look for expanding your offerings is potentially to others in the aviation industry. Some companies may seem like competitors but actually, working together may be your best bet. Either taking overflow of work from another company, sharing resources or actually sticking to what your good at and them doing the same but marketing each other's services with a commission being paid for work/bookings that come through could be a good option.  Another thing could be if you are doing your own MRO, you might be able to offer those services to other operators around you as well.  

One thing to be careful of. We've all been to those restaurants where they do every cuisine under the sun and their menu is so large, it's a novel. Most of the time they do nothing well and everything is average. Generally the best restaurants are those who know what they do well and do a small number of things exceptionally. The same is true in most businesses and so you want to make sure you aren't spreading yourself and services too wide and doing nothing well or the time it takes to change between the types of flying is diminishing your profit margins. 

Make it easier to work with you 

One way to grow a business is to make it easier for people to do business with you. The Harvard Business Review did a study about customers loyalty and found that "when it comes to service, companies create loyal customers primarily by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily." Decreasing the amount of friction people face when working with you could be a key part of growing your business.  

Some key things that will make it easier to work with you could be: 

  • More ways to book
    When it comes to booking in some work, a charter or a tour, you want to make this as simple as possible and done in a way that people are confident in what they are getting. This doesn't mean it would be the same for everyone and depending on your industry and the client, there may be different ways to do it. For example, as a tour operator working with both end clients and travel agents, they will have different opinions of ease of booking. For the end user, they may want to book online in the evenings or from overseas, or they may want to call up to make the booking. Give them a few easy ways to do that. However, if when they call, they always get an answer phone or have to try multiple times to get through, that is not making it easier for them. You may need to improve your phone system so there is always someone to take the call and have a clear list of details you need for the booking so that there is no need for someone to call them back.

    If you are running agriculture jobs, the clients making the bookings will probably want to call someone who knows their situation and what has been done in the past and they generally won't want to submit something online. Give them the cellphone number of the right person and make sure that person has the capacity to actually take the call. Perhaps they'd like to text through to someone to get the booking sorted. If this is a good option for some of your clients and that's what they'd like to do, let them do it. Low friction. 

    Perhaps email is the best way especially for large corporates who need to provide you with a PO number for invoicing purposes or who need a quote of some description and again, if this is the way you and the clients decide to work, make sure someone is always able to respond and if one person is away, others are able to continually respond.
      
  • More ways to pay
    When it comes to payment, the easier you make it, the better. No one likes to pay for things but if you can make it as frictionless as possible, they are more likely to do it. Offering up front online credit card payments for tours is a great way to limit no shows or cancellations and having a non-refundable deposit helps there as well. Giving options like PayPal for overseas visitors, potentially WeChat & Alipay for Chinese visitors, part pay options like Afterpay or Zippay could be options for operators as well. With any payment option, be sure to check the time that it takes to get the money, what percentage they will take of your booking and any other terms and conditions you need to be aware of. After you get to certain turn over through payment providers, fees can be negotiated as well so make sure you are regularly checking in with providers for the best terms. However a higher percentage does not always mean a loss of revenue. The part pay systems have been shown to increase the amount each customer spends so the higher percentage is offset by the larger individual spend.   

    If you are working in certain industries where cheques are widely used, this may be a payment method to offer but you may also choose not to allow them. 

    Your payment terms for on account work is something to consider in business to business situations. With big corporates, your terms will often be dictated by them and there isn't much you can do but after you've got a good relationship with them, terms can be adjusted. It never hurts to ask. 
     
  • The less contact points the better
    Research also shows that people don’t need exceptional service from companies, they need services that meets their expectations and that solves their problems. The thing that people get really frustrated with when it comes to dealing with companies is when the service they receive is poor and, in the end, they weren't able to do what they wanted (i.e. book a flight, solve a problem, get an answer).

    Clients don’t want to be have to be transferred on the phone to 4 different people to get the information they need. They don’t want to try and get information they need off your website and then have to end up calling someone. They don’t want to have to check in 3 times a week before their job is booked to make sure it will happen when they were told it was, and they really don’t want to chase up when things haven't been completed on time.

    The quicker and less painless interactions are with you and your organization for your clients, the more loyalty they will have, the more money they will be prepared to spend and the more leeway they will give you when things do end up going wrong.


    This is part three of a four part Aviation Operations business growth series. The other parts of the series include:



     

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