Despite the challenges and difficult situations business face, employees must stay professional and swiftly resolve these. This is particularly true for airlines that have to regularly navigate delays and operational issues with passengers. What’s more, they often have to neutralize scenarios that are out of their control. That’s where language training can help.
Communication is key in conflict resolution. What airline staff say, and how they say it, has a big impact on customers’ satisfaction. What’s more, it’s crucial for non-native English speakers to communicate clearly in the workplace. Doing so ensures that staff can directly respond to customer concerns and needs, and offer clear, valuable solutions. Effective communication is key for airlines to provide quality customer service and manage passenger expectations.
Here’s how language training can help your team resolve conflicts (and reduce the likelihood of conflicts in the future).
Acknowledge the problem and the customer’s frustration
The first step to de-escalating a conflict with customers is to recognize the source of their frustration. This understanding can reduce tension and make customers feel heard and their emotions validated.
For example, if an air traffic fault has caused flight cancellations, staff could say “I understand that the fault has been very disruptive to your plans.” Hence, staff can mitigate issues and maintain positive customer relations by promptly addressing problems.
Active listening is part of acknowledging the problem. To demonstrate active listening, staff should make eye contact, not interrupt them, and ask questions to gather details. Good language skills are important here, to make sure that staff have a good understanding of customer complaints.
Staff must document every communication to guarantee that they overlook no detail and make all information accessible to the team. Language training can also facilitate this process. Staff should provide customers with a record of discussions to verify accuracy and set clear expectations for follow-up actions.
Empathize and align with the customer
Staff that show passengers that they understand and care about their predicament lets them know that the conflict matters to the airline. It fosters a sense of collaboration and allows customers to see the airline as a partner in the scenario. When customers believe that your airline is on their side, it lowers the likelihood of hostile or aggressive behavior.
Phrases like “I fully understand why you feel this way” and “I would be upset by these events too” are powerful ways for your staff to show empathy towards customers. Likewise, staff should aim to find common ground or shared goals with passengers, in order to emphasize that everyone is working together to find a resolution. “We want to get this fixed as soon as possible too” and “we’ll use what you’ve told us to find the best outcome” are effective displays of aligning with customers.
Remember, if your staff handle a problem successfully, this can actually boost customer loyalty.
Assure customers without overpromising
It can be easy during conflict to overpromise as a way of calming the situation. However, overpromising typically leads to disappointment and a drop in trust, which could mean passengers choosing to fly with another airline in the future. Staff should specify that they are committed to implementing a solution in a timely, professional manner. Statements like “we are dedicated to getting you to your destination” and “our team is working diligently to address the problem” are beneficial here.
To avoid overpromising, airline teams should be transparent about what’s next, timings, and passenger duties. If there are factors beyond the airline’s control (e.g. weather conditions), staff should inform customers to avoid surprises.
Staff should additionally be conscious of not agreeing to customer demands that they cannot deliver. “I’m not sure at the moment” or “I can’t say for certain” are fine responses that should be qualified with known information. For example, “I’m not sure that you’ll arrive by this evening, but we will automatically transfer your bags to the next reservable flight.” This can negate some of the uncertainty that sparks conflict.
What’s the role of English training?
English is the international language of the aviation sector. English training provides team members with the tools and knowledge to deal with conflict well. It gives them a solid grasp of grammar, vocabulary, and syntax that allows staff to convey information, offer empathy and suggest solutions, as well as decreasing misunderstandings that may trigger further conflict.
English training teaches staff members about idiomatic expressions and connotations within the English language. This awareness is crucial for interpreting subtle cues from passengers and more deeply comprehending what’s being said. Similarly, staff can identify and mirror the (appropriate) English that customers use, in order to communicate at their level.
And, because English training tends to involve cultural sensitivity, staff can detect cultural nuances and ensure that they always speak with respect. This balance means that your customers receive better service, and boosts staff retention through the training and development of conflict resolution skills.
How can ELSA help?
ELSA is an AI-powered language learning assistant that supports language training for airline staff. The app provides users with instant, detailed feedback on their English pronunciation, grammar, fluency, and more when they speak into it. Airline personnel can benefit from industry-tailored exercises, like roleplays for handling customer complaints.
Because ELSA is built on data from people speaking with a range of accents in English, its technology can identify common errors from non-native speakers and offer tips to improve – as a result, 68% of users say they speak more clearly with ELSA. Singapore Airlines and FlyArystan already use the platform for English training, which is unsurprising.
Conflict will always be an element of business, especially in customer-facing industries like aviation. Airline representatives’ handling of conflicts can shape customer loyalty, brand reputation, and ultimately, revenue. It’s therefore essential to invest in English training that gives your staff the language skills they need to alleviate conflict.