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What customer experience pros can learn from the airlines

{A Note to Readers: This is another in a series of guest blogs focused on Customer Experience from the amazing Katy Wild. Working with Katy, I can always expect to learn something; I trust you will, too. ~ bph}

In 2003, when we surveyed our Freeman expo customers for the very first time, the results were fairly shocking. Although we received some very positive comments, the overall feedback was that Freeman was the “best of a bad lot” – meaning we were the most favored of the general contractors, but we had a lot of work to do. This input proved useful as we began implementing a defined customer experience program that focused on our service vision and standards. Later we built on this with the creation of our True Blue House, which highlighted our vision, purpose, pillars and values. What a change we saw in our culture. And now our focus is on how each of us can Make It PersonalSM. Is this just a marketing slogan? No, it’s culturally who we are.

Look at the current airline industry: United touts, “Fly the Friendly Skies;” Southwest has, “You’re Now Free to Move about the Country;” American Airlines says there is, “Something Special in the Air;” and Jet Blue declares, “You Above All.” But in a recent Consumer Reports article, “Secrets to Stress-Free Flying”, it’s all about the rigors of flying today – coach seats measure 17 inches wide, down from 18.5 inches, and distance between seats has been reduced one to five inches since 1985. These changes, combined with weather-delayed flights, mechanical failures, more hidden fees and fewer refreshment options have made it almost impossible for airlines to live up to their slogans.

In a recent blog, Anne Handley reported experiencing one of those dreaded multiple-hour delays; she was expecting the worst as she headed to the gate for her Jet Blue flight. Instead, when she arrived, she discovered snacks and bottles of water set out by a Jet Blue agent for the stranded passengers. And the personal attention didn’t stop there; this same agent began playing a trivia game over the sound system with those waiting in the gate area, and when someone guessed the right answer, she rewarded them with a pair of headphones, blanket, or other “perk.” Two hours later, when it was time to board, the winner of the trivia game was allowed to board first – with lots of cheers! That night “You Above All” had an entirely new meaning to the passengers, I’m sure.

Freeman employees – and all of us in service industries – have opportunities to Make it PersonalSM, and memorable, for the people we work with every day! Let’s show our customers, and our competitors, that it’s more than a marketing slogan, it’s something we do by design.

~ Katy Wild