Customer Service Starts With The Qantas CEO

Soheb Zaidi from Unsplash - Customer Service Starts With The Qantas CEO by Craig Johns

Customer service starts with the QANTAS CEO

By Craig Johns

How does the incumbent Qantas CEO approach a plane that has lost both engines?

When public confidence has reached rock bottom and the culture of the organisation is beyond rust repair, how does a leader restart the engines and have them firing on all cylinders? People are our greatest priority. It seems like Alan Joyce has led Qantas via the old saying “people are our greatest assets” and approached both customers and employees as a line on the balance sheet rather than humans.

As the old English proverb says, the fish always rots from the head and  it is clear to see that Alan Joyce may have overstayed his time in the cockpit. When a company goes through severe turbulence how do we ensure that it takes off and lands safely each day?

Marcus Reubenstein from Unsplash - Customer Service Starts With The Qantas CEO by Craig Johns

The Challenges of Employing Internally Work?

The challenge will be that someone from QANTAS has been anointed CEO by the current board and possibly the current CEO Joyce himself. Is Vanessa Hudson going to be able to bring a fresh approach after being in Qantas for 29 years and being part of the most recent executive team? 

How easy will it be for her to build rapport, gain buy in and establish the trust and respect necessary to bring everyone in Qantas together as one united company? With her experience across a range of areas of finance, inflight services, products and customer service, there might be a chance.

What power dynamics will the board and shareholders play? Will the Qantas CEO be empowered or will her engines be depowered?

Andy Wang from Unsplash - People Are Our Greatest Assets at Qantas by Craig Johns

People Are Our Greatest Priority

Approaching a shift in focus from bottom line to people first is going to be more challenging that trying to turn a cruise ship around in the Suez Canal. Where there is will there is a way. 

QANTAS’s ability to rise again will be determined by Vanessa Hudson’s gravity of leadership. She will need to shift from the Qantas CEO creating a gravitational push to developing a gravitational pull where everyone is aligned and heading in the same direction.

It will require creating an eco-system not an ego-system, where people are positioned at the heart of every decision and action made. Qantas will need to start with a culture detox before they can commence a culture change.  

The iconic Australian airline, once known as the Spirit of Australians seems to be fast becoming the ghost of Australians. Vanessa Hudson faces the challenge of balancing business, employee and customer centricity. 

Troy Mortier from Unsplash - Vanessa Hudson will need to keep\ an eye on customer, people and Qantas by Craig Johns

Focus On Customers, People & Business

As noted in the Channel 9 interview “As a company, our job is to get the balance right between looking after our customers, you – our people, and the business itself. Right now, achieving this balance must start with our customers, and that’s what we will be focused on with our new management team.”

However unless you first get the right strategy, right people and right culture in place Qantas won’t be able to attend to the customer service needs. Customer service starts with the CEO. 

Vanessa Hudson will need to work with the employees of Qantas to identify what the right customer service approach is and then embody it. Once the right strategy, right people and right culture have been attended to, the right systems and processes, products and services and customer service will come to life.

Sam Carter from Unsplash - Customer Service Starts With The Qantas CEO by Craig Johns

The First 100 Days

The bottom line will take care of itself rather than being the number one focus in recent years. The first 100 days of Vanessa Hudson’s reign will be pivotal. Trust and respect will need to be earned, which requires hearing the voice of Qantas people, loyal customers and stakeholders.

There are two pivotal questions that will determine what the Qantas of the future will look, feel and sound like.

  1. What does a world class version look like?
  2. What will stop us from achieving that?

These two simple questions will not only reveal what it will take to gain enough momentum to achieve liftoff, but also what is required to consistently perform in the eyes of the traveller.

Josh Withers from Unsplash - Vanessa Hudson Carry the torch at Qantas by Craig Johns


Qantas’ leadership needs to ask itself three all important questions;

  1. What do travellers need?
  2. What do our staff want?
  3. How can we re-inspire loyalty in our brand?

All while remembering the mantra… ‘People are our greatest priority’.

Vanessa Hudson has been handed the Qantas torch from Joyce. Qantas’s condition may not be what it used to be, however Vanessa Hudson’s role is to Carry the Torch. Not just to carry the torch, but to protect the flame so the flying kangaroo is illuminated in our hearts and minds once again and leave the Qantas torch in a better place than she received it.

Craig Johns talks about the new Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson

Craig is a 10x National Champion, International coach and CEO turned high performance leadership expert, international speaker and and Inspiring Great Leaders Podcast host.

He is the CEO & Managing Partner of Speakers Institute Corporate, a high performance leadership expert, and a leadership, high performance and workplace culture keynote speaker.

Learn more about how Craig is working with a diverse team of exceptional human beings to inspire great leaders at

Book Craig as a Speaker and learn how to become a high performing leader by going to for more on the Gravity of Leadership, Break The CEO Code and Atomic Pressure.

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