Friday, February 02, 2007

It's All About The Customer... really is. I'm sitting on the tarmac at DFW last night for three hours waiting for our plane to be de-iced. Three hours. Normally, people in a similar situation would be getting restless, frustrated, even angry. Not on this plane though. The pilot spoke up every 15 minutes providing an update. He apologized for the delay each time and emphasized that he was doing everything possible to get us off the ground safely. I've been in similar situations a couple times before (although not for as long), but in those situations, we were only given an update if there was something new to report. This pilot understood a key component of customer service, keep the lines of communication as open as possible, even if the communication itself isn't what the customer wanted to hear.

When I think of great customer service in the Airline industry, I have typically thought about Southwest, JetBlue, probably not American. But I've been flying American quite a bit lately, and I have to say, my experiences have generally been positive. Sitting on the tarmac for 3 hours last night isn't fun for anyone, but I was comforted by the fact that the pilot sympathized with us, and that the same time, he had protocol to follow and he wanted us to be safe. That's good enough for me, and apparently was for everyone else on that flight as well. I'm feeling good about my experience with American Airlines today, they have a satisfied customer for sure.

Customer/Candidate care is a BIG issue in Recruiting today as well. Take a look at articles on ERE this last week from Calicchio, Sullivan and Wheeler. Google receives heavy press regarding complaints about their Recruitment process, so what do they do, they go hire the candidate experience master. The focus of CareerXroads Fortune 500 Career Website Whitepaper is on the candidate experience. It is an issue that I plan to focus heavy attention upon within my organization as well.

My favorite new business book, Mavericks at Work, provides great insight into those highly successful organizations that create fanatical customers with outstanding customer service and a unique experience, companies including Southwest, Starbucks, Potbelly, Commerce Bank, Cranium, etc. Seth Godin makes the point time and time again in his recent book, 'Small is the New Big', that customer service is the most important, yet most undervalued, component to successful marketing.

An airline pilot made me feel good about sitting on the tarmac for three hours last night simply by sympathizing with me and assuring me that he was doing everything he could to rectify the situation. When was the last time told a candidate that they were not going to be considered further, yet still made them feel good about the outcome? No one likes to deliver 'bad news', but having the courage, resolve and discipline to do so can make all the difference in helping your customers/candidates walk away from the situation feeling OK, and potentially wanting to do business with you again and again and again.

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At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Mick said...

The pilot's "unncecesary-yet-reassuring" updates helped to make a miserable situation tolerable and required minimal effort on his part. While three hours on the tarmac is a somewhat extreme situation, it happens all the time in the course of daily business where a 1-minute e-mail or phone call would make a world of difference in reassuring a client/potential client/employee/etc. that "nothing has changed, but I'm working on it and will continue to keep you posted". The effort required is minimal, but the returns can be huge.


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