This isn’t one of those 1940s-era how we met, married and lived happily ever after stories.
OK, maybe it’s not a story about marriage, but I am talking about long-term relationships. Specifically, about creating enduring relationships with customers.
I started thinking about this after boarding a flight to Louisville last week for a board meeting. As I settled into my seat for the Chicago leg of the trip, I tried to lose myself in a book. But a flight attendant began barking out emergency procedures over an extra squawky mic. Unable to concentrate, I closed the book—and my eyes along with it. Her safety message finally delivered, she concluded by telling us to look on some incomprehensible page in the flight magazine for the list of drinks the airline served and to be prepared. She was going to start beverage service as soon as she could since it was such a short flight.
Why on Earth do we need beverage service and a small snack on a one-hour flight? It’s just one more disruption, if you ask me. First, the flight attendants usually block the aisle as they’re providing this service, and then when you get your drink and snack, it’s really more a hassle than a treat. I’m pretty clumsy to begin with, so I can’t be trusted balancing an open cup of liquid, a snack that needs to be unwrapped and my book, highlighter and iPod in such a tiny, restricted space. So I usually just skip the dutifully offered munchy, tempting as it may be. (Believe me when I say there are passengers out there who should thank me for this!)
OK, call me a curmudgeon. For those of you who do enjoy the mid-flight bite, I’m really not advocating its demise. But do airlines really expect a warm cookie or a handful of shelled nuts to appease customers frustrated by higher ticket prices, baggage charges, fewer routes, constant delays, the undressing and re-dressing that’s now a standard of security, and the jostling that accompanies boarding a planeload of passengers whose carry-ons are too big for the overhead bins?
So, here’s the point: In what way might you be inconveniencing your customers? Is any part of your customer experience frustrating? And if it is, are you trying to mask that problem with some “token” instead of really trying to solve the problem?
I’m certainly not naïve enough to think that even exceptional customer service will buy “happily ever after” these days, but it certainly will extend the honeymoon.