On January 1, my college golfer daughter, Kelly, and I flew to Palm Springs. Every winter her top gun swing coach goes there for a few weeks and almost all his players - high schoolers, college, and tour pros - fly in for a few days of intense lessons and practice.
Our Alaska Airlines flight went through San Francisco. We didn't connect, so we didn't have to get off. At least we weren't supposed to get off.
After our first leg deplaned all the SF passengers, it boarded those on their way to Palm Springs. Everything was hunky-dory when they closed the door and said we were ready to leave. The jetbridge pulled and we the engines revved up.
Then they revved down. The jetbridge came came. The door opened and a mechanic walked on. He spoke with the captain briefly and left.
No more details are needed. You know what happened. They asked us all to get off, taking our bags and wait. After about 90 minutes, the flight was cancelled, and all the passengers got in line to get rebooked. Of course, I'd already spoken with an Alaska Airlines rep on the phone, so Kelly and I were confirmed on the next flight...six hours later. Most of the passengers spent the night in SF. We got to our Palm Springs hotel after midnight, and the rest of the trip was uneventful.
End of story? Apparently not, and the thing that happened next completely surprised me.
One week after returning, I received an email apology from an Alaska Airlines executive. I wasn't surprised at getting the apology. It was nice, I thought, until i read the end of the email. Here is the message I received:
On behalf of Alaska Airlines, please accept my personal apology for the difficulties experienced with flight 312 in San Francisco on January 1, 2014. While passenger safety is our highest priority, we understand that your time is valuable and regret that this situation caused disruption to your travel plans.
As you are probably aware, flight 312 had a mechanical issue that required repair prior to take off. Our mechanics worked diligently to complete the repairs and get you on your way. Unfortunately, the situation became more complicated the originally anticipated and it became necessary to cancel your flight. Our operations and airport staff worked to rebook you to your destination; however, I realize that this caused a significant delay to your destination. I would like to once again extend my sincere apologies for this delay and any resulting inconvenience you experienced.
As a customer service gesture, I have issued you each an electronic Discount Code, which may be redeemed for a discount off future travel at www.alaskaair.com. Discount Codes are valid for one year from the date of issue. Please reference the appropriate code below at the time of booking on alaskaair.com. Discount Codes do not require a pin and need to be entered in the Discount Code box at the beginning of your reservation. Complete rules and restrictions can be found online at www.alaskaair.com.
Kelly Miller, Discount Code XXXXXXXXXX, in the amount of $300
Steve Miller, Discount Code XXXXXXXXXX, in the amount of $300
We value your business and hope to have the privilege of welcoming you onboard another Alaska Airlines flight in the near future.
Customer Service- Airports
WOW! A $600 credit for future use! That's close to the full cost of our round trip tickets to Palm Springs.
Kudos to Alaska Airlines for taking a bold step in customer service. They recognized our experience was diminished, but responded in a way I've rarely seen.
I often ask the question, "How far should we go in customer service?" because I'm a firm believer The Experience is the Marketing. What can we all take away from this tremendous example from Alaska Airlines?
I have an earache, so my doctor called in a prescription for amoxicillin to our local Rite-Aid. I drove over a couple hours later to pick it up. The pharmacist said he was finishing up my prescription and it would just be a couple of minutes. True to his word, he called me over soon after.
His name was Paras Doshi . Actually, I imagine it still is Parsas Doshi, but I digress. He was very friendly and very efficient.
A technician took care of the payment and asked if I was happy with Mr. Doshi. I said I was very happy with him. She then asked if I would be willing to take a survey for him to which I said yes. I thought, hey, this guy did a good job and I'm happy to tell the bosses. She showed me the link on my receipt.
And that's when she said something I HATE to hear. The technician explained it was very important I give Mr. Doshi ALL FIVEs in my survey, otherwise he would get in trouble.
At that moment I knew I would not take the survey.
Doesn't that irritate you when you are asked for your feedback and then told you MUST give that person and/or business a perfect score? What exactly is the point?
I'm not going to get into a huge rant here, because I suspect that YOU feel exactly the same way. I have never met anybody who thinks these surveys mean anything.
Am I wrong? Nah, I'm not wrong. But if you feel like venting a bit here, please do. I'm going to tweet this with the hastag #riteaidfail, if you want to join me.
As I said a couple of days ago, I'm was San Diego working with The National Needlearts Association. I'm helping the association make some difficult strategic decisions, which are being met with some strong resistance from a small number of people. This is nothing unexpected. Change is hard for all of us.
One of the things I've noticed about the TNNA members is their passion for needlearts. Some focus on yarn, some on counted thread, some needlepoint, and some spinning & weaving. But ALL are incredibly passionate.
Unfortunately (and this might be hard for some of those reading this), being passionate about your chosen field does not equate to being a successful businessperson. And this flies in the face of that oft heard recommendation, "Be passionate about what you do and you can be successful in business." (I should point out I'm not picking on the TNNA members. There are many successful businesspeople there. I've thought about this many times and thinking about their passion this week just reminded me of this. I remember seeing people in the GAS TURBINE industry who were extremely passionate about their products, but not good business people!)
It's all well and good to be passionate about what you do. But, if you want to make a decent living, you'd better learn how to be a good businessperson, too. You need to know how to manage finances, maybe some employees, insurance, inventory, and other aspects. But most important, you need to be a good marketer. You need to know who your market is, how big your market is, how to communicate efficiently with, which media to use, and what message to share. Without good marketing, you're dead in the water.
So go ahead and be passionate. But be realistic, too. If your passion can't support your living, then maybe it's just a hobby. If you want to make it a business, then you MUST learn how to run a business.
I love great promotions. I love unselfish sharing. I really love it when a company unselfishly shares with its customers and then gets some promotional pats on the back.
It's the holiday season, so take 5 1/2 minutes to watch this entire video of how WestJet airlines pulled off an amazing and fun gifting to an entire flight.
As I wrote about in my previous post, I recently keynoted the Independent Distributors Association annual convention in Banff, Alberta, Canada.
If you've ever hired a speaker for an event, you know it's a risky proposition. You can watch a speaker's demo video and talk with some referrals, but until that speaker actually delivers an awesome presentation, you never know what's going to happen. I've personally seen other speakers who didn't live up to the promise, and I've seen speakers who were difficult-to-please prima donnas. Both are the bane of a meeting planner's life.
I remember one time I was hired to present a breakout session for a major trade association in San Diego. As always, I arrived early to my session room to make sure everything was set up and AV was working. As is often the case, I rearranged the chairs and moved the screen for a better audience experience.
A few minutes before start time, the meeting planner walked into the room to make sure everything was ready. I assured her the room, AV, and I were all set and she didn't need to spend any more of her valuable time with me. I knew she had plenty of other tasks and small fires.
She responded, "I am staying to introduce you. I have something important say."
Obviously, this was totally fine, but I was curious by what she meant when she said, "I have something important to say."
At start time, she stepped to the front. "I'd like to introduce your presenter for this morning, Steve Miller. Before I give you his bio, I want to tell you I've already decided Steve will be back next year. Across the hall is a speaker who will never come back. That speaker has been nothing but difficult from the day I hired him and I have to go across and babysit him some more. Steve, however, is the easiest speaker I've ever worked with. I haven't had to worry one minute about him, and because of that, he will be back." She finished my intro and left.
Frankly, at that time I had no idea being easy was a big deal. I thought every speaker did what I did, assuming it was the ante to be in the game. And, even though nobody would ever accusee me of being the brightest bulb in the pack, I learned. Ever since, I've continued to work hard to be easy.
I learned another similar lesson this week from my IDA client. As I always do after speaking or consulting, I send a thank you card and a small gift. I often take pictures at the meeting and try to get one with me and my client together. I then custom design a thank you card through my Send Out Cards account, including a small gift available through their system. Usually I send brownies. They're very tasty!
Shortly after sending the card and brownies, I received the following email:
My goodness! I just got your lovely surprise. A first in 30 years of planning meetings.
Still the feedback keeps coming and you did "make me look good". Terry M. did not exaggerate when he recommended you highly!
If you would ever want to use me for a reference. I would be more than happy to do so.
What? A first thank you? I asked about that and she said, no, she'd received many thank you notes, but never a gift - in 30 years!
I find that amazing. Just like when I learned how unusual it is to be easy to work with, I assumed this was common practice. I didn't send anything extravagant or expensive. I send four brownies, yet look at the impression it made.
Many years ago, Brian Tracy shared something in conversation I've always taken to heart. He told me that almost every successful company and person had one thing in common. They are Brilliant at the Basics. Even Vince Lombardi saw its importance when he said:
Some people try to find things in this game that don't exist but football is only two things - blocking and tackling.
Being easy to work with? Saying thank you with a small gift? These aren't advanced tactics. Apparently, though, they're also not common practice.
Even though Seattle is only a 90-minute flight from Calgary, I'd never been to Banff. I'd heard a lot about how beautiful the area was and always wanted to go there, but hadn't.
The location and vistas didn't disappoint. They were spectacular. But one thing didn't live up to expectations. The Fairmont.
According to the hotel's website: "The majestic “Castle in the Rockies,” located in the heart of Alberta in Canada's Banff National Park - a UNESCO World Heritage Site has been providing legendary hospitality and unsurpassed dining experiences to guests of our luxury hotel for 125 years."
Well, no, there was nothing legendary about the hospitality. Arriving on Tuesday afternoon, I unloaded my suitcase, briefcase, and golf clubs from the van. None of the hotel bellmen came to see if I needed help. I proceeded up a small incline to the front door, pulling my stuff in front of at least four different bellmen. Nobody said a word or even glanced my way.
Over the course of the next three days I walked out the front door and by the bellmen at least eight times. Not once did any of the Fairmont staff out front acknowledge my existence.
The rest of my time at the Fairmont I interacted with several other staffers. They were all pleasant enough and attentive to my needs. But my entire experience was tainted by the bellmen. My first impression of the Fairmont was of the bellmen and throughout my stay they did nothing to change that impression. In fact, their indifference only enhanced my perception.
I often say it's never the lions and tigers that get you in the jungle. It's the mosquitos. When was the last time you tested your company's first impression (and ongoing, if necessary)? When a customer or prospect contacts you or stops by your business, what is their first impression?
Would I recommend Banff? Absolutely. It's spectacular!
Would I recommend the Fairmont? Probably not. I think I can find another place to stay in town next time.
Next month I'm speaking in Banff, AB for the International Distributors Association. They are a world wide non-profit association of independent businesses that supply quality parts, service and equipment to the heavy construction industry.
In preparation for any presentation, I always ask to speak with a number of stakeholders to learn about their businesses, the industry, and their challenges. Obviously, I'm not going to become an expert in their field, but it helps a lot for me to get inside their heads and see the world through their eyes. (Since I titled my blog, Two Hat Marketing, I'd better walk the talk!)
One thing that often happens is when an interviewee locks into a topic they want covered, but I'm not an expert at. For example, in this week's conversations, two people want me to share the economic situation in their industry around the world. Have you ever read anything from me about world economy? Another gentleman shared how great it would be to talk about succession planning.
Clearly, neither of these topics is something I should cover. Sure, there are examples of speakers desperate for the check who think they can just do a little more research on a topic and, voila, they're an expert. Early in my speaking career Brian Tracy gave me some great advice. "For every word you speak on stage, know 1000, Steve." In other words, talk your walk. Don't fake it by giving a book report.
Certainly, understanding these issues is important for me. It helps me empathize with what's going on in my audiences' heads and maybe influence some of what I will talk about -- marketing and innovation.
I bring this all up because too often too many small businesses will take on jobs, or make promises to prospects they simply don't know anything about or, worse, they KNOW they can't do.
The truth is people appreciate the truth. They appreciate when a supplier or potential supplier is 100% honest in their promises. Because, for the most part, everything is being commoditized today, the big things that separate us from the competition can often be found in the intangibles. I wrote about this is my free ebook, 11 Old Rules of Business That Still Matter.
Admit it. You aren't good at everything. Don't promise something you can't deliver. Tell the truth, even when it's bad news. And if it's bad news, tell it sooner than later.
Your customers and prospects will appreciate that.
P.S. If you haven't read my free ebook, you can get it right now by clicking here.