Frequent flyers tell great stories about being thanked for their business. Maybe the captain came out and gave her business card to the top elites in the cabin, or a flight attendant brought you a drink and thanked you for your loyalty. That never happens to me.
I’ve been acknowledged as a frequent customer maybe once on American Airlines, and I don’t think ever before that. Maybe I just don’t come off as sufficiently approachable, my head buried in my laptop.
Nick shares a story about his experience with Delta that reminded me of a very important lesson. Business is won or lost one customer at a time. That’s true even for the largest of businesses.
Nick tells me he’s been an American Airlines Executive Platinum since 1997. A year ago he “had one too many issues” with American and asked Delta to match his status. That was a huge step for someone like him who lives in Charlotte, an American Airlines hub.
Delta generally will offer status challenges up to Platinum, so it took until a month ago before Nick earned Diamond status. Fast forward to two weeks ago,
I am a consultant so I have a number of clients I visit. About two weeks ago I got a call from my boss that Delta airlines is now in my portfolio and I should go and visit them. I flew to Atlanta and went to Delta headquarters.
As I was sitting in the waiting area for my meeting with one of the Senior Vice Presidents at Delta, every time someone would walk by me they would stop and thank me. I was very confused by this since as a consultant you are never treated that way.
After the 5th person walking by thanked me I could not hold my curiosity any longer and asked her why she was thanking me. She pointed to my bag with the Diamond tag and said you are one of our most valuable customers and thank you for flying with Delta and trusting us!..[T]his was in their corp office which is not a customer servicing area.
You’d think that an airline like Delta has so many customers, how can a single interaction with one of them matter for the bottom line?
But you have to remember that Delta has over 80,000 employees. Not every one of them interfaces with customers, although most things that nearly every one of them does has an effect on customers. And employees are in contact throughout their days, each and every hour they’re at work, in some cases as many as 250 days a year.
Large companies can easily forget the way one customer matters, but large companies also have scale so each person dealing with a customer multiplies itself thousands of times, and thousands of times over again.
Saying thank you is an easy gesture but it points to an important mindset, putting the customer at the center of everything.
An airline should think about how their processes will affect the customer, not just the operation. Can we hold a flight without hurting more customers? Are we communicating delays as early as we know them so customers can stay working or relaxing in the club instead of heading to the gate unnecessarily? Are flights being timed to maximize aircraft usage, or to get people where they want to go when they want to go there?
In some ways it’s even more important for executives to have this mindset than frontline employees. Their decisions are going to affect many more instances of single customer interactions, and they’re going to be examples that frontline employees model. It’s great to hear that for this one customer, he felt appreciated. And that’s solidified his decision to move his business (even before getting the airline as a client).