Lessons learned: That warm, fuzzy feeling

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July 9/16, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 2

By Tom Jennings


I have long felt that before you can be a good service provider, you must first be an aware service receiver. There are lessons to be learned daily regarding the correct way to treat customers. Allow me to share an example.

Recently I needed to travel from Kansas City to Phoenix on short notice. In order to get flight times that would accommodate my schedule, I had to book flights on two carriers. The price quoted for each flight was the same, but the experiences could not have been more different.

On the outbound flight, I was greeted at the counter by a friendly attendant. I had two bags to check. I was advised this was not an issue as they could be checked at no charge. Once onboard, I was served a soft drink and a snack—again, complimentary. I was even asked if I wanted a refill. The pilot came on the speaker system to advise us of an anticipated smooth flight. He remarked that we had a great team of cabin attendants onboard that would take care of us. He then stated he realized that many of the passengers would like to work or sleep during the next two hours, so he would keep interruptions to a minimum. I thought to myself this man knows who his customer is.

The return flight was a very different experience. When I scanned my credit card to check in, I was immediately charged $60 to check my two bags. When I booked the flight, I was notified that seats would be assigned at the gate. Since I fly dozens of times yearly, I knew this wasn’t a good sign of things to come. I was then advised by a rather indifferent gate attendant that since I didn’t have priority status with this carrier for the fee quoted, only middle seats were available. He could, however, assign me to a “preferred window seat” for only $22. Being a large person, a middle seat isn’t a good option for me or the person on either side of me. I had now spent $82 and hadn’t even left the counter. I was really starting to feel special.

Then, finally, as we prepared to land in Kansas City, the pilot pointed out the university I attended was visible out the window on the left side. Since it’s a competitive school, he announced that anyone from my school would have to get off last. I realize that he was trying to be cute. My skin is not that thin as I have heard this banter for years. My point is that it’s never a service provider’s right to infer any type of bias that might offend a customer. The outbound pilot came across as professional. By comparison, this pilot looked like a clown. I assure you he thought that he was doing me a favor by flying the plane when, in fact, I was doing him the favor of providing a paycheck for his family. This airline seems to have forgotten that fact.

The lesson to be learned from this is that ultimately a customer’s feelings about a business seldom have much to do with the product offered. Both airlines got me safely to my destination. Both were on time and had my bags waiting for me. Based upon the product offering only, they were exactly the same. In my eyes, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Always remember that customers may forget what you said or what they paid. However, they will never forget the way you made them feel. How do your customers feel about the possibility of doing repeat business with you in the future? How do the services you provide make them feel?

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