Farewell to Transavia: a new future
Daan Noordeloos says goodbye to Transavia and continues his work at Transavia partly from People Change. On the occasion of this he and Transavia-CEO Mattijs ten Brink are giving a workshop to old and new relations about what binds them together and to Transavia. An exploration of the future.
MB: “In 1966 Transavia was founded by John Blok to make flying accessible to ordinary people. This is still true today. Transavia also had to be the opponent of KLM – now we strive for healthy competition with our mother KLM.
Then came the founder of modern Transavia: Peter Le Grand. In 27 years, he has given us the foundation on which to grow. Peter has given Transavia the entrepreneurial spirit of great thinking and daring. He was also the patriarch of the Transavia family; it’s all about the people. But where he wanted to take care of people, I try to let people take care of themselves.”
DN: “I joined Transavia in 2010 and I thought it was a boy’s dream that I could park my car next to a 737 in the morning. From the point of view of customer experience, I developed the customer strategy here. But put a group of Transavians together and after ten minutes someone stands up to sweep years of scientific research and empirical practice aside with ‘Here it will work different, we will have to adapt that’. We are a group of Gauls, but that obstinacy is also a source of power.
Connecting the dots
Mattijs also spoke independently of my opinion about customer experience. Like it should have been that way, whereas we both follow our hearts. Steve Jobs so eloquently describes this in his Stanford speech Connecting the Dots.”
From KLM to Transavia
MB: “I really am a product of my parents. My mother was vice president of the court in Haarlem and always ignored herself; it’s about the team. But she could also be judgmental and snobbish. My father was decisive and grand on stage but insecure and clumsy in personal conversations. My great learning path is to embrace all that in me.
I had been working at KLM for a long time and already had ideas about the organizational structure, but I always remained the second man. With my wife Elsemiek, I take a forest day once every few years to coach each other on our careers. We talked about Transavia philosophically, the step was illogical, but then Elsemiek showed me that video by Jobs: look back at why you would be suitable for the job. Try to understand what Transavia needs, what makes you you and how those two fit. That’s exactly what I did in the job interview.
The human side and complexity
On a strategic management course in Lausanne, I discovered that I have an extremely positive view of mankind. Then the pieces of the puzzle collapsed. In all my jobs I had always been concerned with the human side and that seems to be very deep. I strongly believe that almost everyone is intrinsically motivated and that a wrong turn in life is almost always nurture.
But with that almost naive-positive view of mankind, I don’t shy away from complexity. At KLM Cargo, I really learned to embrace that: there is simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
DN: “Our dots connect at complexity. I’m always looking for answers to questions that others don’t seem to ask. With each answer I get ten new questions.
Our dots in working with people connect aswell. In addition to the passenger experience, it’s also always about the employee experience, that’s what our mission is all about.”
Paved way to the abyss
MB: “When I arrived at the beginning of 2013, I was going to get onto a paved way. But before I started, the company was struggling to stay above zero and we ended the year with a heavy loss. A lot of good had already been done but apparently not enough. That gave me a licence for a completely different approach.
In the first half of the year I had to make many rational decisions, we had a business model change, a different way of working, a new website, tripled IT investments and launched a new brand in the middle of the crisis. Under the radar we already started with EXI = PXI. This has become the main pillar of Transavia’s strategy.”
Employees and customers
DN: “We started investing in both employees and customers, because that’s where a Euro pays off the most. The first breakthrough was from thinking in terms of costs to thinking in terms of turnover. I was given the opportunity to investigate where we could really make a difference despite the fact that it was a difficult financial situation. So I was looking for creativity within the box; there is always a framework and there is still a lot to be done within it.
We found a balance between being low-cost on the one hand and investing in the customer relationship and linking it to the employee on the other. What really moves and touches the employee? And the customer? In 2017, we added: “How do we get fit for the future?”
Leading and inspiring
MB: “In a world where economies of scale seem to be decisive, easyJet has the same cost level, even though it is fifteen times larger. So we’re doing something right, we can now even pay our planes in cash.
So we have survived the crisis, but the next crisis is just around the corner. Stakeholders are becoming increasingly complex, sustainability is becoming increasingly important and growth is not really possible for us. In the meantime, the distribution landscape is changing; how consumers look for travel, get inspired and ultimately book their trip. How can we be a leading and inspiring company by 2020?
We want to be an organisation that can make the choice situational. Our values are:
Decisive: we dare to choose, tackle together and persevere. We achieve a lot by being smart.
Passionate: we love what we do. We go for it full of energy! And get a little better every day.
Friendly: we give sincere attention. For this we take ourselves, pleasure and warmth with us!
And those values fit in perfectly with both Double Healix and the People Change value systems.
DN: “In the meantime, incidents such as those involving Boeing have had a major impact on the outside world, and that is unpredictable. While our competitors are still adapting, we see our ability to change as a competitive advantage, we even want to be able to benefit from external changes.
To continue to develop, people need the right attitude, skills, agility and willingness. We measure this change capacity with the People Change Scan. We look at employee experience, mental agility and preference in change style. Being able to benefit from external change requires a transformation of the organisation. This starts with people who can and want to transform. This insight is crucial to Transavia’s success.
Playground in a newly built neighbourhood
We have developed a new management model and are managing change at individual, team and organisational level. To do this, we looked for a language to understand how our culture works. We are a playground in a newly built neighbourhood: cosy rubber tiles everywhere. We keep the family together, but for real learning ability it’s still too safe. We don’t look for sharpness enough. We have to make a step in our culture. We could explain this very well with the People Change Scan. Transavia has always had a purple-green culture that focuses on traditions and people but focuses less on the future. We need to discuss this. And the first results of the total transformation are there: we have a profit of 81 million euros.”
Credibility to continue
MB: “That profit gives us the credibility and the space to continue with it. The next phase is to bring coherence to people, organisation, content and programmes.
We have real conversations: what are you doing and what makes you happy? In a meeting, people can simply say ‘it doesn’t feel right’. This often leads to a better outcome.”
DN: “Complex problems can be solved by working with a diverse network of people and organisations. I enjoyed working on the customer, employee and organizational side and that has been very valuable. But you have to stop at your peak.
How can Transavia develop?
If the organisation experiences this success, it affects the dynamics of change. If you come out of a crisis, it might be easier than if things went well. It is more difficult to go to another point on the horizon if you can determine the route yourself, than if you move away from a ravine.
The question to you is: how can Transavia continue to develop and face a sustainable future if growth is no longer a matter of course within the current business model?”
The guests will find the following answers:
- If you want a weekend away, airlines only give you destinations, times and prices. But a trip is more than just a ticket; customers are looking for inspiration and one pays less attention to costs, while the ticket only distinguishes itself in terms of price.
- Optimise the customer experience per flight, connect the experience before and after the flight and in between flights. Make the customer a fan and ambassador so that he or she will automatically fly with Transavia the next time.
- As a company, do you have a story that appeals to your customers, such as a vision of the future of aviation, how do you deal with flight shame?
- Become the information solution for all low cost transport from bus to plane, wherever you go.
- Involve customers like Giffgaff does: customers with complaints are involved in the organisation. If we don’t agree, the community decides. Let the customer determine who you are in 2030 with reviews and rankings. Keep dreaming with the customer. Co-creation with customer panels. Have the management call back a customer with a complaint on a regular basis in order to discuss the situation with them.
- Like the employees, you are not responsible for the happiness of the customer, but you create the conditions.
- Ask your customers what they really need; often you are forced into first class, while many prefer to be left alone – that’s also a first class.
- Airlines spend a lot of energy and time on the operation, so why not lease the airplanes? Then you always have the newest, most beautiful and economical aircraft and you can give the customer all that attention, time and energy.
- Look to the future (horizon 3) as the Efteling does: everything that seems technically possible now, is there.
- Sharpen your hiring policy and hire young people who are very change-minded.
- Transavia is good at making annoying experiences bearable or even fun, such as air travel, but perhaps also a visit to a dentist or parents-in-law.
- Pay special attention to fear of flying, for example distract people with VR-glasses.
- Let people choose their fellow passengers based on a profile.
- Make the unwritten law explicit that the middle seat has both handrails.
- Give the opportunity to pay more for extra width or legroom.
- Give each ticket a share of Transavia for an extra five euros, so that everyone can own Transavia and then go for radical transparency.
Ten years closed
MB: “What a wealth of reactions. Our customer comes back a lot and that’s a nice approach. If we look at the customer experience in the broadest sense of the word, there is still a lot of room for improvement.”
DN: “How cool to close almost ten years of Transavia like this. As an entrepreneur, I will then focus on supporting organisations with their transformation issues. From People Change I work with the Scan as a tool for clarifying the culture, first at ABN AMRO Insurance and of course Transavia”.