A keen attention to detail is the hallmark of great service companies. It takes a great deal of effort – having the processes in place, hiring the people with the right attitude and training them as well as equipping them with the appropriate customer intelligence at the right time – in order to execute well and provide great customer experiences. We are all familiar with stories of great service upscale brands such as Nordstrom and Ritz Carlton. I would like to share an unexpectedly positive experience within an industry (airline) and a carrier (US Airways) that do not normally come to mind when talking about good customer experiences. I am on the top tier of US Airways’ frequent flier program. Usually this means I board early and get upgraded to first class. On those occasions when I have to fly coach, I am reconciled to the airline treating me like everyone else, which is with the level of indifference that has, unfortunately, become the norm for most US airlines on domestic and many international routes.
Recently I ended up sitting in coach, because I had booked my flight at the last minute. As I was settling down for the flight, to my surprise, the flight attendant from first class came back and greeted me. “Sir, welcome aboard. I see that you are Chairman’s Preferred. Can I get you anything from the first class cabin?” I was surprised, both by the explicit recognition and by the gesture of service, which had never happened before. I realized US Airways has started to provide their first class cabin attendants with the list of high value passengers who did not get upgraded, so that they can be recognized and appreciated. She also came back to check on me a couple of times during the flight to see if I needed anything, so she was not just going through the motions. Needless to say, this was one of the most positive experiences I have had with US Airways. I handed her an Above and Beyond card (provided by US Airways to its high tier customers) that recognized her service.
This experience, although it sounds simple, only happened because a number of things fell into place.
- She happened to have been given a list of Chairman’s Preferred customers who were not in first class, information that is typically not shared with flight attendants.
- She was trained and asked to reach out to those passengers – a new process that had to be put in place.
- US Airways had already provided me with cards that I could use to recognize outstanding service – making it easier for me to recognize her in a tangible way – beyond a thank you.
- Flight attendants who collect many of the Above and Beyond cards are recognized and rewarded by the airline on a regular basis – reinforcing the behavior and also helping them identify their best performers – through the eyes of their best customers.
This is a process that engaged the customer and the employee in a virtuous cycle. It is what is needed to provide a positive experience and keep customers engaged. I hope this was not a one-time exception or a particularly diligent employee going above and beyond. It would be nice to see US Airways and other airlines delighting their passengers on a regular basis.