A Shared Vision
The Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia’s capital city is arguably one of the most important events on Canada’s right coast. For the fixed based operators (FBOs) located at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, the annual late fall gathering brings not only a bump in corporate and military traffic, but heightened demands for customer service from all members of their respective FBO teams.
August 28, 2017 By Matt Nicholls
Providing red carpet service is paramount for FBOs nationwide at all times, but major events tend to set that bar even higher – and with more than 300 dignitaries, government officials and top leaders in the security industry from more than 70 countries, this event is indeed a big deal. Being ready for all requests is paramount.
Dennis FitzGeorge Hall, base manager for Innotech Execaire Aviation Group-Halifax – one of the airport’s most established FBOs – knows the drill. His team services a steady stream of both military and corporate clients, and the small, experienced group routinely rises to the occasion to provide clients with impeccable service and safe, care-free experiences – even when there’s a bit of a curveball involved. To say last year’s event brought with a bit of curve ball, would be a bit of an understatement.“We always get a number of high clients that come in,” Hall said. “These are lavish people and certain items on their wish lists are almost impossible to find. Last year, some of them were requesting very expensive wines and rum – names I had never heard of. My CSRs, God bless them, went to all lengths to fulfill every request. They searched long and hard on Google . . . finally we found everything at a specialty liquor store downtown.”
KREOS Aviation Inc. assistant manager Dalena Juárez can relate. KREOS Aviation is based in Saskatoon, Sask. and the northern lakes that dot the province north of the city are a fisherman’s paradise, offering some of the finest angling opportunities in the world. KREOS once again did very well in the annual Wings report, capturing top honours in the Central region (see “Adding it all up,” above).
Earlier this year, a pilot that had brought a group in wanted to relax with an afternoon of fishing. He asked Juarez where some top spots might be, but not being an angler, she didn’t really know. No fishing experience, no problem. She immediately tracked down an angling aficionado who had the right knowledge to present a few options.
“Top-notch service at an FBO is not about the amenities,” Juarez told Wings. “It’s mainly about the people. Sherry (FBO manager Franks) has set up a strong training and customer service program here, and this environment inspires people to do great things – it shows in the final product. It’s about catering to and respecting the little things. If a client or pilot needs a ride somewhere, for example, we take them in our own car – there is absolutely no hesitation. It’s the personal connection that sets you apart.”
A view from the top
Going all out for clients no matter what – and showing that commitment from the top down –seems to be the mantra that connects Canadian FBOs from coast to coast. The 2017 Wings Canadian FBO report shows countless examples of customer service excellence from not only line crews and maintenance teams, but customer service representatives (CSRs) and fuel providers.
Understanding client needs – tendencies, buying habits, desires and more – and anticipating how to deliver the goods, goes a long way in maintaining a strong customer base. Keeping the FBO fresh with constant renovations, upgrades, and a commitment to the smallest details is also important.
Gordon Livingstone, president of H-18 FBO at Montreal’s St.-Hubert Airport, told Wings the secret to success remains consistency in the delivery of all aspects of the overall product.
“A lot of it has to do with the records we keep on our customers,” Livingstone said. “We highlight their preferences, what the caterers or drivers do for them. And we work hard to keep this information up to date. That brings a personal touch to it. What also works in our benefit is the fact our staff has such little turnover. The living memory stays with our team. Even if there was a plane that was there two years ago, our guys will be able to recognize the customers. That makes all the difference.”
H-18 FBO finished second in voting in Quebec in this year’s report. With its 200,000 sq. ft. of ramp space, 30,000 sq. ft. of hangar space (with 48-ft. of clearance) all within 15 minutes of downtown Montreal, the FBO is a sound option for business travellers travelling to Montreal for corporate meetings. The H-18 team is also developing a second FBO property (opening in 2018) aimed at higher-end customers. Coupled with major enhancements at the St.-Hubert, Que. airport, it may entice more business travellers to utilize the space.
“Business aviation professionals are starting to realize there is a potential benefit of the ease of operations of a secondary airport, not just Dorval,” noted Livingstone. “There are many head offices that are setting up on the south shore and their operations are coming through more than they were in the past. As the mining market grows, there is a large potential for business aviation.”
The value of experience
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that does not apply to the team from Skyservice Business Aviation. Refining and implementing new services, processes and techniques at all of its FBO properties across Canada is a daily ritual that continues to pay off.
As was the case in last year’s survey, Skyservice FBOs did very well in this year’s report, with Skyservice Toronto capturing first place in Canada and Ontario, Skyservice Montreal placing first in Quebec, Skyservice Calgary finishing third in Western Canada and the company’s newest FBO property in Ottawa finishing second in Ontario.
Skyservice Business Aviation chairman and CEO Marshall Myles was understandably thrilled with the news and quick to point out that each property offers customers top-notch facilities and amenities. More importantly, however, is the experienced team he has assembled nationwide.
“We keep re-investing in our facilities to ensure we have every convenience,” Myles told Wings. “But this is only one aspect of the business. In Toronto, for example we have an incredible team with more than 200 years experience collectively at our front desk. So, when clients and customers come in here, they are comfortable – you are delivering that consistency they expect. I get compliments on our people all the time.”
To that end, Skyservice Toronto customer service supervisor Emmanuel Rodrigues prides himself in ensuring staff deliver prompt and efficient service in all aspects of the business. It’s all about preparation, care and commitment.
“To achieve No. 1 FBO status, you have to be able to deliver efficiently,” he said. “It’s knowing who is coming in the door, whether they be someone we see on a weekly or daily basis or someone we haven’t seen. You need to know by the tail number and who you are dealing with. Being prepared, understanding the little things, being efficient – it’s all critical to the final product.”
Refining training processes, safety management systems (SMS) and meeting all brand expectations is also critical. In fact, some 71 per cent of survey respondents note that they choose an FBO based specifically on the amenities, services it provides and people on staff. Brand consistency is imperative.
“Most FBOs are chains,” noted Myles. “They are looking for economies of scale in terms of pricing and overhead. Some chains are cutting back on people, services and amenities to save costs. We have taken the opposite approach. We have more people working here than we ever have (more than 650 employees).
“We also have added more support to the team that is here. Imperial Oil sold its assets in Canada to World Fuel Services, and we are now part of the World Fuel family. We are attending all of the new conferences and training. In the end, you can invest in a couch or invest in people – and the right number of people to do the job.”
Having a passion for aviation also helps. This holds true at PAL Aviation Services in St. John’s and Halifax, two locations that finished in the two top spots in Atlantic Canada.
“I find aviation is one of those industries that if you’re in it, you love it,” Stephen Dinn, vice-president of business development with PAL Aviation Services, said.
“It’s one of those things that comes with a good deal of energy; people embrace it. We’re very lucky to have people like that in both locations.”
Passion for the product, passion for the clients that keep coming back. Congratulations to the passionate folks at Canadian FBOs across Canada who keep delivering the goods.
Survey Stats – How it all breaks down
Wings FBO survey was designed to identify properties that deliver on these important value propositions. For the eighth consecutive year, we asked readers to identify their top Canadian FBOs, fuel cards or credit cards. In an industry driven by service impressions as well as price, the survey offers a unique overview of the Canadian market and this market alone.
The survey was conducted online for eight weeks from late May to early July. Respondents were allowed the opportunity to select up to five FBOs and rank them based on everything from service and pricing to the various aspects of the venue. Respondents were also asked for a rating on each section using a scale of one through 10 for such attributes.
With the end scores tallied, we then were able to see how the selected FBOs rated overall for their markets – both in the number of times they were selected and in the total scores by attribute. Of the FBOs receiving votes this year, winners were selected region to region across the country – including a “Top 5” and a “Rising Star” award – and an overall winner was determined based on the total votes cast and related scores.
Once again, the survey illustrates that customers do remember their service experience – and when it is good, they feel loyal enough to comment.
Getting the word out
How important is the Canadian FBO survey? Very important!
- “We worked hard to share the importance of this survey with clients. We had a computer set up in our pilot lounge, we made quarter page flyers made to hand out . . . we’re a smaller FBO but we have many key repeat clients.” – Dalena Juarez, FBO assistant manager, KREOS Aviation
- “Our target is to be the No. 1 FBO in Canada by 2019. So, working with clients to promote the survey is very important to us.” – Gordon Livingstone, president, H-18 FBO
- “We brought more attention to the survey this year. We had enhanced signage, followed up with clients . . . just an overall more proactive approach to participation.” – Stephen Dinn, vice-president of business development, PAL Aviation Services
- “It’s pretty damn exciting to be honest. We take this survey very seriously and are very appreciative to be honoured like this.” – Marshall Myles, chairman and CEO, Skyservice Business Aviation Inc.
- “Obviously, it’s a great honour. We really wanted to promote this great facility this year. Our clients like what we’re doing.” – Dennis FitzGeorge Hall, base manager, Innotech Execaire Aviation Group – Halifax
- “Maybe next year, we will be No. 1! We are really pleased with this result. We have a small but dedicated staff here. It always helps to have familiar faces on staff, especially when it comes to dealing with repeat customers.” – Javier Pascuet, general manager, Skyservice Ottawa.
- “It’s nice to be recognized, but it has been a year of upheaval. We are looking forward to our new FBO opening up in 2018!” – Annemarie Mercedes Heikenwälder, manager, sales and business development, H-18 FBO