Just before the holidays, I experienced two valuable reminders of the power of personal touch in customer service from the most unexpected of places— the airline industry.
The first happened during a business trip on an American Airlines flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix. As we boarded the plane, the first face that greeted us was not the flight attendant, but the pilot himself. He smiled and said hello to each and every passenger. Then, once we had all taken our seats, the pilot took to the intercom, introduced himself and gave us a quick rundown of what to expect for the morning’s flight. Facing a crowd of tired travelers, he asked, “Who’s feeling excited for the day?” Clearly caffeinated, one outspoken traveler shouted a big, “I AM!” from the back of the plane. The pilot replied, “That’s the energy I love,” walked all the way to the back and handed the passenger a gift card.
Simple yet striking, that exchange brightened my day and made me think about how much that pilot must love his job. It was remarkable enough on its own, but even more so when you think about the impersonal nature of travel these days.
Three weeks later, I traveled on the same airline but under very different circumstances. I flew cross-country for my 20-year high school reunion with my then 15-month-old daughter Harper in tow. There’s a reason most people avoid airline travel with children that age. Toddlers are too old to simply sleep through the flight, too young to be entertained long-term by books or an iPad and much too emblazoned by their newfound ability to walk to want to sit still for more than a millisecond. But far be it from me to deny my parents a visit from their granddaughter, I brought Harper along for the ride.
This time, when everyone had taken their seats, the flight attendant came to see me. She said, “If you need anything, even if it’s just a bathroom break, ring the call button and I’ll come help. Traveling alone with a kiddo is hard and I’ll do whatever I can to make it easier.” It was a packed flight and she would have her hands full, but she knew I would, too. I could tell it was a truly genuine offer and one I won’t forget.
Both of these folks face the demands of a high-stress, high-pressure job. They interact with thousands of people on any given day and are likely met with any combination of complaints, negativity or blatant indifference. But how they approach their jobs reflects none of that. Instead, in the space of a few minutes, they provided service that was positive, genuine and truly personal.
Imagine the impact you could have if you did the same.