Yesterday I hopped on a JetBlue flight from Phoenix to New York for Ramon Ray’s 12 Hours of Tech conference. The experience was something worthy of noting. Let me share it with you. It might change how you approach your business.
As I boarded the plane, one of the in-flight crew members asked me where my seat was. I responded “18E.” She gave me a funny look that I didn’t quite understand; I think she was actually trying to get my attention to tell me something. However, being the socially inept person that I am, I kept walking. When I arrived at my seat, I realized why she might have been trying to get my attention. My seat was a middle seat and next to me was a very large man.
Conservatively, he was sitting on about a third of my seat. Since I’m a very small guy, I really didn’t mind. I got nestled into my seat and was ready for the flight. I struck up a conversation with my seatmate and he was an excellent guy. I was about to ask him if I could put my head on his shoulder during the flight. It looked so comfy. (Ok, don’t think I’m a weirdo– I genuinely liked the guy and figured he wouldn’t mind since we were practically sharing my seat.)
As I was about to ask him, another one of the in-flight crewmembers, Henry, asked me to come see him. I made a snide remark about getting in trouble and being sent to the principal’s office. I got up and followed him a few rows back. I already liked Henry because earlier he had carried my bag for me and stowed it in the overhead bin. Henry proceeded to tell me that they had another seat for me in the front if I wanted to be more comfortable — I gratefully accepted. I was moved to the second row known as an, “Even More Leg Room” type of seat. It was great.
The story doesn’t stop there. A few minutes before take-off, an in-flight crewmember came and talked to the young girl sitting next to me. It turns out she was flying alone for the first time. The crewmember spent a few minutes with her telling her exactly how things were going to happen. She told her where the bathroom was, how to use it, that a crewmember would accompany her off the plane, and a bunch of other assurances to calm her and help her enjoy the flight.
What happened with ME during that conversation is what I want to talk discuss in this entry. A few minutes later, as we were moments from takeoff, I noticed that the girl was extremely nervous. She was tapping her feet and wringing her hands nervously. She rocked back and forth in her chair and looked out the window every few seconds. Normally I wouldn’t have noticed. But, since I had heard the conversation with the crewmember, I was aware and I knew why she was nervous. I stepped out of my normal comfort zone (usually I ignore everyone and read or work on my laptop) and I struck up a conversation with her to distract her. I learned why she was traveling and who she was going to see. She was totally distracted during takeoff and her nervousness went away. I encouraged to do this because of the experience that I had with Henry and the experience I saw happen with the girl.
I believe Henry was the crewmember captain (or manager or whatever they call crewmember leaders). His staff was awesome. And, the story is not over yet! Henry is not just a customer service expert; he understands business. Check this out.
As soon as we were in the air, Henry announced they were having reception trouble with the satellite TV signal. As a result, he offered all the movies free for everyone on the flight. By doing that, he instantly created some customer loyalty and probably some repeat customers.
Later, as we approached New York, Henry made this announcement (paraphrased):
“We’re now in our final descent to New York City. Please take a minute to help our in-flight crew by handing us all trash. Please open up the seat-back pocket and grab all those gum wrappers, napkins, and anything else that shouldn’t be in there. As a side note, we’re arriving 30 minutes early. So, next time JetBlue gets you somewhere 30 minutes late, let’s just call it even.”
He accomplished two very important objectives for the JetBlue business in those statements.
- He improved JetBlue’s crew efficiency by having customers pick up their own trash. He did it in a tactful way that encouraged everyone to participate. I looked around and saw everyone digging deep into those seat-back pockets and pulling out all kinds of trash.
- He also set appropriate expectations to maintain customer loyalty. He knows that occasionally, despite all efforts, JetBlue flights may become delayed. So, he took advantage of the fact that we were early to prevent bad feelings and increase loyalty the next time a JetBlue plane is late. Very smooth and helpful to earn tolerance from customers in the event they’re late.
Here’s what I learned from Henry:
- Be Aware Of Every Customer – You can’t help customers be happy if you don’t know they’re not. Put yourself in their shoes so you can empathize.
- Act – Do everything in your power to make customers happy.
- Set Expectations – Customers are more likely to be happy and remain happy if you set the right expectations.
- Happy Customers Help Breed More Happy Customers – I helped the girl next to me continue to have a good JetBlue experience because of what I experienced.
If anyone at JetBlue reads this, please give Henry a raise. (Flight #178 from PHX to JFK on 6/10/10). Better yet, please put Henry in charge of in-flight crew staff training. He gets it.
For the rest of you, where’s your Henry?
Are you aware of your customers? If you don’t interact with them face-to-face like the JetBlue crew does, what are you doing to be aware of them? Are you leveraging the power of Infusionsoft to track your customer’s behavior, preferences and experiences so that you know better how to help them? Are you putting yourself in your customers’ shoes so you can empathize with them? Are you taking advantage of good experiences to guard against adverse experiences? Learning from Henry would do us all some good. I hope you have a chance to meet him.