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Transforming Into A Guest-Centric Organisation

Inside Story

Malaysia Airports’ ‘Happy Guests, Caring Hosts’ Service Culture Transformation Programme aspires to portray the international gateway of the nation with a first-world service culture

Malaysia Airports’’s Head of Guest Advocacy Division, Suradini Abdul Ghani sharing on Host Culture during the Leadership Appearance segment at the “Happy Guests, Caring Hosts” training session.


While the world has made quantum leaps in the speed of internet connectivity, air travel has evolved to be the cornerstone of globalisation as travellers both business and leisure, increase their frequency of trips and get more selective about how they travel, where they travel to and who they travel with.


As the airline industry thrusts forward, regional airports have upped the ante in an attempt to capture a larger market share of this travel phenomena that does not appear to be slowing down in an era where flights get cheaper and more accessible, inevitably shrinking the world for the regular globetrotter.

Along with this surge in demand, consequentially, the challenge is directed towards airport service providers to shell out consistent, regulated and repeatable standards of excellence for the travel experience of airline patrons. 

In order to cope with this foreseeable surge, the Guest Advocacy Division of the Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) has devised a well-planned, structured and organised system to propel Malaysia to the helm of guest services, in order to capture the burgeoning travel market and steer the service culture of our airports towards what they have crowned as a transformation programme with the core focus rooted on the pillars of a ‘Happy Guests, Caring Hosts’ philosophy, geared towards service operational excellence and developing a customer-centric culture.

Speaking to Malaysia Airports’ Head of Guest Advocacy Division, Suradini Abdul Ghani, she shares an elaborated yet achievable plan on how this “culture change” is to be realised through a series of scheduled trainings mostly leaning towards motivating the human assets of the organisation, which are the keystones of service excellence. She added that to be a Caring Host, one should embody and demonstrate the 3P values – Proud, Personal and Passionate in serving guests to create more Happy Guests who will feel the 3W – Warm, Welcoming and Wonderful.

“To be a Caring Host, one should embody and demonstrate the 3P values – Proud, Personal and Passionate in serving our guests.”

Targeting to provide world-class service levels to guests, the focus of Malaysia Airports are towards two vital pillars which are Service Operational Excellence and Customer Centricity Culture. In its effort to elevate Guest Experience, Malaysia Airports aims to improve the quality of service in terms of facilities, infrastructure and airport processes to ultimately achieve seamless travel for a plethora of identifiable guests with specific personas. Suradini shared that Malaysia Airports has identified six Guest Personas who use the airport, namely the Active Explorer, Budget Traveller, Chairwarmer, Demanding Elite, Emotional Traveller and Efficient Expert. It is vital to identify these personas in order to cater and satisfy individual demands and different needs of a widening travel demographic. 

She also added that it is most imperative for Malaysia Airports to focus and improve on guest experience by improving on the key touch points, which comprise 17 key areas from the moment the guest arrives at the kerbside right up to disembarkation at the gate. Galvanising the above with this customer-centric culture development programme, Malaysia Airports believes it can achieve its five-year vision of propelling Malaysia’s airports into being among the best in the world.

She further shares that the programme has made commendable progress as measured by way of the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) programme, which is a world-renowned and globally established benchmarking programme measuring passengers’ satisfaction while they travel through an airport. The ASQ results for KLIA have shown a marked increase in scores from 2018 to the first two quarters of 2019.

However, implementing the programme for the airport has not been without challenges due to the large programme rollout plan that needs to reach the entire KLIA community in a short span of time – plus the task of ensuring the quality and consistency of the trainings. There is also the need to assess “behavioural change” of the workforce as the leading indicator other than the monthly ASQ scores as well as to sustain an intervention programme for poor performers.

The training session also includes other airport communities such as airlines, government agencies and service providers

Suradini also added that customer feedback received since the launch of the ‘Host Culture’ training programme has been very encouraging as there are clear reduction in complaints and increase in compliments.

In order to further improve this programme, she mentioned that there will be an increased focus in tourism promotion, working closely with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia. 

Apart from the on-going ‘Happy Guests, Caring Hosts’ culture transformation programme, Malaysia Airports is also working on 10 vital transformation elements, namely mission, vision and values; performance management; leadership; partnership management; rewards and recognition; organisation design, people learning and development; interaction; resources as well as tools and innovation.

Ultimately, this culture transformation programme will see a revamp in the motivation and attitude of the Malaysia Airports employees and the KLIA community when it is fully rolled out and implemented. With the successful application at KLIA, Malaysia Airports continues to work with the government agencies and other organisations at all its other airports to change the way the world sees Malaysia, and immensely improve the way airport staff serves travellers from all corners of the earth.

All-Round Advantage

The beauty of the programme is that it proves beneficial not only within the boundaries of the working environment but also helps boost the programme participants’ level of confidence and self-esteem, sharpen their communication and interpersonal skills and, most importantly, help foster the spirit of togetherness – all valuable traits that will always be highly sought after.

One of the participants of the training programme, Salmi Athira from MA Niaga (Eraman), the retail subsidiary of Malaysia Airports, was pleased to share that she has benefited greatly from the trainings conducted, which will go a long way in improving the way she interacts not only with everyone she comes into contact with at work, but also in her personal life.

(L-R) Salmi Athira – Frontliner MA Niaga; Mohammad Fahmi – Immigration KLIA Officer

Another airport partner, Mohamad Fahmi from Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia (Immigrations), KLIA mentioned that the session created awareness on many levels from understanding the elements of Airport Service Quality to the different type of service levels we provide to our guests. He shared that this session was an eye-opener to many of the real airport case situations shared and knows how to handle them more effectively now.

(L-R) Nur Hidayah – Customs KLIA Officer; Mohd Shafiq Ikhwan – Aviation Security Officer              

Another positive feedback came from Nor Hidayah from Jabatan Kastam DiRaja Malaysia (Customs), KLIA, who mentioned that she enjoyed the training session a lot. She liked the fun learning approach which helped her to better understand the different types of guest personas who use the airport. On the other hand, Mohd Shafiq Ikhwan from Malaysia Airports Aviation Security division shared that he felt that the session was great as it gave a clear understanding through the real airport case studies shared and how one should embody the 3Ps (Proud, Personal, Passionate) while serving the guests.

Driving culture change takes time but Malaysia Airports believes that with the right approach and focus on the entire airport community, this goal can ultimately be achieved. Just like the quote by American author Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”.

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