The customer experience is defined on the front line.
We recently enjoyed this video of a WestJet flight attendant making the mundane task of delivering flight safety instructions during take-off into a moment of educational entertainment:
Kidding aside, the video was a good reminder that the customer experience is frequently defined – for better or worse – on the front lines of the business, not in the boardroom. On that point, we thought a recent post titled “the $50,000 an hour gate agent” by Seth Godin made some acute insights:
“Conventional CEO wisdom is that top management is worth a fortune because of the high-leverage decisions they make. But consider the work of Wade, an unheralded Air Canada gate agent. Yesterday, I watched him earn his employer at least $50,000 while getting paid perhaps .1% of that. The microphone was out of order, but instead of screaming at the passengers, he walked over and spoke directly to the people who needed to hear him. On his own, he started inquiring about the connection status of a family of four. He could have cleared the standby list, closed the flight and told the four that they’d have to find another way home. Or, he could have saved them their four seats, which would have flown empty if they hadn’t been filled. Instead of either path, he picked up the phone, organized other staff to find and expedite the family and get them on board. And then, in an unrelated bit of valor, he tracked down a lost wallet and sent his #2 to fetch it from where it had been left–getting it to the plane before it left.”
Leaving aside the point that both of these examples include Canadians (coincidence?), Godin points out that Wade’s actions likely significantly increased the lifetime value of many angry customers who otherwise would have had a negative experience.
Across our companies we have spent time recently focusing on the sequence of steps necessary to set, meet, and ideally exceed customer expectations. It doesn’t take long to realize that small breaks in the service delivery process can result in significant shortfalls. So, we often wonder what can we do to recognize and encourage Wade-like behavior across our team of small businesses.
Ultimately, we believe it comes down to defining our values and upholding our cultural norms. This is not a one-time task, nor is it something that develops overnight. We must be constantly articulating to the team what it means to delight the client in the context of our businesses and reiterating those points time and time again through multiple channels (perhaps even in the form of a weekly newsletter…). And, of course, we must set the example ourselves by living our values each and every day.