Air France/KLM

Air France boosts innovation that drives customer service and employee experience with Office 365

From its hubs at Paris Orly and Paris Charles de Gaulle airports, Air France operates flights to more than 320 destinations and 118 countries. To differentiate itself from competitive, low-cost airlines, Air France uses Microsoft Office 365 collaboration and communication services to empower Firstline employees with tools to share innovative ideas. This new mindset encourages everyone to challenge the status quo with new ideas and take risks to improve the customer and employee experience. With Office 365, this formula for success is taking off.  

The Air France way

When an Air France flight attendant decided that it would be nice to adorn meal trays with paper napkins folded into lotus flowers, he posted a short origami video on the company’s social network. Suddenly, lotus flowers were blooming on flights all over the world. Sharing a clever idea like this is a rewarding experience for an employee, who garners personal recognition, but it also reinforces a collective allegiance with colleagues. And when that idea improves customer experience, it’s a perfect example of what Gilles Gateau, Executive Vice President, Human Resources, at Air France, calls, “la symétrie des attentions.” This concept—that a direct link exists between employee experience and customer experience—lies at the heart of human resources (HR) policies at Air France. 

“In HR, our vision is to draw upon the symmetry between how we treat our employees and how they serve our customers,” he says. “We are more considerate to our customers when we are more considerate of each other, when we work together, and the company looks after the well-being of its employees. That is the Air France way.” 

With more than 90 percent of employees reporting that they are proud to work at their airline, Air France has already established that culture in a big way. But in today’s increasingly competitive travel industry—where low-cost airlines are moving into the international flight market, and customer expectations for digital services and connected flights are putting pressure on major carriers—Air France is focusing on that symbiotic relationship between empowered employees and loyal customers through a new set of human resources commitments. 

“We are embracing a transformation of our company to meet the expectations of our customers and employees,” says Gateau. “To support this strategy, we are introducing a modern workplace for our 50,000 employees that’s even more rewarding and empowering. It is founded on the principle of daring to innovate. Our employees have a lot of ideas and they are better at finding the solutions to improving our customer satisfaction. This creativity must be unleashed if we are to prosper in today’s market.” 

Air France chose Microsoft Office 365 as the foundation for its modern workplace initiative. “The business tools we use to drive creativity and encourage global collaboration are all contained within Office 365,” says Gateau. “Using collaborative tools to encourage new ideas and leverage our collective brain power is behind strategic plans to optimize passenger service and employee experience,” adds Amel Hammouda, Chief of Transformation at Air France. “Office 365 supports creativity, agility, and operational efficiency through mobile access to information—we have deployed tablets to all customer-facing employees—and by breaking down the silos across our dispersed organization.” 

Social networking in the air connects dispersed workforce

Approximately 40,000 employees share posts, photos, and ideas through Yammer, the enterprise social network in Office 365, and they have launched more than 1,400 active Yammer groups, including security groups, product groups, work safety groups, and customer service communities. 

One of the first employees to really embrace Yammer in a way that promotes the corporate culture at Air France is Flight Attendant Mathilde Ostrowska. She initiated the “I Love My Job” Yammer group to connect with other employees, but soon found that it took on a life of its own. Employees everywhere began to share their ideas about what makes Air France a special place to work.

Enthusiastic adoption of the nonhierarchical social network at Air France has done more than anything else to break down silos among a Firstline workforce that epitomizes mobility and diversity. More than 20,000 employees are flight crew, including pilots and cabin crew. Of those, 10,000 employees fly long-haul or international flights, and they rarely fly with the same colleagues more than once. The remaining 30,000 ground crew include up to 8,000 based in airports outside of France. 

Air-to-ground feedback enhances service 

According to Franck Turjman, Inflight Service Manager for Medium and Short Haul Flights, Yammer plays a key role in facilitating collaborative decision making between cabin crew and management, one that yields a direct impact on Air France in-flight service delivery.

“Managers deliver information through Yammer to cabin crew members, who provide direct feedback and share best practices with colleagues. Managers often validate employees’ feedback by ‘liking’ their posts and demonstrating action on their suggestions,” says Turjman. “Thanks to this collaborative model, we are learning more from our cabin crew about our customers’ expectations. In fact, we made Yammer the official channel to report nonconformity with products from our caterer and to report issues back to our Client Experience division.” 

Thanks to cabin crew feedback, Air France can address issues before they escalate. When a flight attendant posted about missing bread baskets on a particular route, management took immediate action. And, based on customer feedback relayed to management, Air France now offers warm bread and orange juice for breakfast on short and medium haul flights. When another flight attendant posted a photo of a malfunctioning cart, colleagues on other routes noted the same thing, surfacing a trend that might not have been noticed as quickly. “Yammer has proved to be a modern communication channel that we use to quickly resolve issues and help us exceed our customers’ expectations,” says Turjman.   

Connected employees improve freight management   

Jeoffrey Gorges, Superior Technician-Engineering in the Cargo Division at the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, has been instrumental in streamlining project management and teamwork among his colleagues who design, build, test, and upgrade machinery that handles Air France cargo—anything from helicopters to precious works of art. Team members use Office 365 to connect on a wide range of projects, like ensuring a machine correctly calculates crate volume and weight for accurate billing and flight safety purposes, or modifying machinery in a cargo capacity upgrade that will impact hundreds of ground crew. Since Gorges introduced Office 365 applications, operational efficiency is up across the entire division. 

“The capacity upgrade project was seamless,” says Gorges. “The integrated tools in Office 365 have been essential for coordinated teamwork, giving us easy access to colleagues and documents. With Office 365, we access the latest information to accommodate changes and deliver on schedule.” 

Traversing Paris Charles de Gaulle airport can take an hour and require passage through customs, making it difficult to track down a colleague for a quick conversation. Gorges uses Skype for Business Online to chat with team members to gain instant feedback on a question. And to avoid long drives for face-to-face meetings with his global project managers and lead buyer, they frequently collaborate on documents during video calls. “We share our screens and work on specifications without having to leave our desks,” says Gorges. “We’ll be introducing telecommuting to the Cargo Division, making it possible to attend team meetings while working from home. It certainly will help with work–life balance.”

Today members of the Cargo Division use Microsoft OneNote to take meeting notes and manage all new projects in Microsoft Planner. Microsoft SharePoint Online serves as a single repository for all technical documents. “When we place a machine in service, we share these documents from SharePoint with the maintenance teams who are working on site,” says Gorges. “SharePoint is the definitive go-to-location for technical documents, shared OneNote notebooks, and tasks created in Planner.” 

Meanwhile, Air France has 15,000 employees using Microsoft OneDrive to store more than 38 terabytes of data; all personal documents are housed in OneDrive online storage.   

Cargo Division engineers and managers use the SharePoint app on their phones to retrieve information immediately. “Yesterday, I needed to reopen a project’s specifications to give partial approval on my construction site, but I was away from my desk,” says Gorges. “It was easy to review the document on my phone, make the necessary edits, and post my approval on the site. Personally, I have gained back two hours a week. And thanks to the improved communications among coworkers and the live overview of a project’s status we get with Planner, we cancelled four hours a week of status meetings.” 

Nurtured talent drives company transformation

Internal recruitment is a key human resources policy at Air France, where employees are encouraged to undertake career-enhancing moves that optimize their skills and experience. According to Guillemette Wauquiez, Mobility Consultant at Air France, internal mobility is one of the most important factors in responding to the changes taking place at Air France and affecting the company’s transformation projects. The faster she can help managers make a successful bid for a new position, the more quickly the airline benefits from their expertise. 

“To develop the company, we need to develop the talents and skills within the company. Now, I have great video conferencing capabilities to do just that,” she says. “Skype for Business has changed my life. I use it to conduct interviews with managers all over the world or share screens and debrief people on their assessments. At least 93 percent of our communication comes through visual cues, all of which I can get on a video call.”

Recently, Wauquiez used her iPhone to conduct a video call with a colleague in Kinshasa who needed coaching on an interview, and it saved her four hours of meetings. “When I think about the work I do preparing people for assessments and internal selection procedures, I can save up to two months in terms of efficiency during a selection campaign,” she says. 

Seamless teamwork empowers ground crew, drives project management

Instead of relying on radios to communicate, employees responsible for check-in and boarding services carry iPads and use Microsoft Teams to connect with colleagues in the field.   

“Previously, our firstline staff, such as ground crew, and their managers had no way to share information, making it difficult to work as a team to ensure our passengers received great customer service,” says Sylvain Goletto, IT Exploitation Manager for ground services employees at 18 Air France locations. As a Transformation Leader for Office 365, Goletto is also responsible for helping ground services employees optimize their use of Office 365 services. 

“Today, managers share a daily summary of ground crew schedules and duties in OneNote that’s stored in Teams. They encourage these employees to add to the notes during the day so that everyone around the airport—check-in to boarding gate—can work better together to ensure a seamless loading process for our passengers,” says Goletto. “We used WhatsApp before, but it never worked well on the managers’ PCs. Plus, we have greater confidence in the security of Teams. The GIFs and emojis bring a little bit of friendliness and humor into our work, which can sometimes be very stressful.” 

Another Teams-based project involves 15 members that manage IT deployments and fleets of computer equipment. “We use the SharePoint site in Teams to store project documentation, Planner for project management, and OneNote for production meeting notes,” says Goletto. “Specific channels have the Yammer connector, allowing team members to stay up to date on Yammer conversations happening across the company. I use Microsoft Flow to summarize progress notes from Planner once a week. Now we spend less time with agenda items in meetings and more time brainstorming and being creative with new ideas that benefit the business.” 

From innovating customer experiences in the air and on the ground to improving operational efficiencies in cargo loading bays, management meetings, and check-in stands to optimizing talent and ensuring collaboration among employees the world over, Air France uses Office 365 to achieve real business value. 

“There’s an entire world that must come together to deliver perfect service for the duration of a flight, from beginning to end,” concludes Gateau. “Today, we are one of the leading airlines in terms of the tools that we make available to our employees. With our mobile work environments built on Office 365, it’s easy to see how global collaboration improves operational performance and drives future opportunities.”   

Find out more about Air France on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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