In a recent airline experience at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport in Baltimore, I had to check my luggage which is unusual but I had to take a lot of stuff on this trip and had a big bag that wouldn’t fit in the overhead bin. I usually hate dealing with the surly folks who I typically encounter at airline check-in desks, but on this occasion, I was pleasantly surprised.
When I reluctantly walked up to the Air Canada counter, I was greeted by a woman, Colleen, who gave me an enthusiastic “Good morning!” with big smiles. I was somewhat bowled over by the enthusiasm.
I was then asked for my flight information which I would normally have at hand but her excited greeting had thrown me off my game. Anyway, as I fumbled to find my flight information, she continued to smile and wait patiently with not an ounce of grumpiness (amazing considering the extremely early hour) or the typical apathy I usually experience from airlines reps. This attendant appeared to have a genuine desire to help with not a bit of canned, scripted, corporate language, nor the usual inability to make eye contact (BTW… Could someone explain why airline ticket and gate agents are constantly typing away on computers like a teenager texting at the dinner table? What is it they are constantly doing and why does every question require 10 minutes of typing? Note to airline execs: Teach your people to stop typing and make eye contact, and maybe look into making your computer systems easier to manage so employees can spend more time actually connecting with customers.).
The next step was to print my ticket and baggage tag so we stood and chatted amiably for a few moments while things began spitting out of the printer. It was then that my new airline friend casually asked me if I liked aisle seats, I responded that I really preferred looking out the window but there were no window seats left when I booked the flight. Then, without another word, she went about typing, reprinting my ticket, and informing me that I now had a nice window seat. What could I say to that but WOW! I was amazed, in love, overjoyed, the list goes on.
Now, did she do anything that warranted a medal? No, not really, but what did she do? She had a great attitude, she made me believe she cared whether she really did or not and she treated me like a family member regardless of whether I was a gold, diamond, ruby, preferred flyer or not. Who could ask for more than that in a customer experience?
LESSON: A positive, friendly attitude and a genuine desire to help others is what takes an unremarkable service experience and makes it a memorable, hospitality experience. So, if you want your business to be memorable and create an army of customer advocates, find passionate, genuine people who want to help others, and then get them out there on your stage. You can have the greatest product in the world but turning bland service into a hospitality experience is the real difference that creates long-term, high returns.
Thanks Colleen for being the best. Keep up the good work.