The Rare Art of Customer Delight

Customer DelightThe Vanishingly Rare Art of Customer Delight

Was ready for a flight destined to Houston, en route to my home. I had a tight connection. But I’m an optimist by default. So I was in strong spirits. And set to fly.

The initial delay was 30 minutes. Something about the plane having to be towed from another area to the gate (not sure why someone didn’t tow it over earlier but no worries; there are worse things happening in the world). 30 minutes stretched to an hour. Nearly zero communication nor explanation. The gate agents just typed frenetically on the keyboards as in one of the final scenes of the pretty-much-hilarious “Meet The Parents” movie.

Finally, we boarded. The captain then came on the PA and advised us of a “minor mechanical problem that should be fixed in 15 minutes.” Four hours later we were still on the runway.

When we eventually took off, I’d missed my connection and resigned myself to the adventure of an unexpected evening in Houston (great city). Through it all, no one from the airline said “Sorry”, the gate agents promised at the arrival gate were invisible and no plans were made for hotel accomodations or ground transport. No one seemed to care (when a business treats its people poorly, its people treat their customers poorly – except for the one in one hundred soul who rises above it all because of their personal belief system and Leads Without a Title).

Look, I’m not complaining. Not at all. Delays and disruption are the price of admission for a professional traveler. I had books to read, water to drink and my iPod with hundreds of audiobooks just begging to be consumed. I’m not so special (and certainly no different from you) but I was able to maintain a sense of perspective about the whole thing. But the experience did fine tune and bring into clearer focus the gorgeous opportunity every business has to breed customer loyalty and all -new levels of trust when things don’t go as planned.

Here are some of my thoughts on what a truly world-class airline that really cared about their customers would have done:

4 Keys To Delighting Your Customers

1. Talk To Your Customers: A problem is nothing more than an opportunity to engage and wow the people who keep you in business. The gate agents and personnel could have quickly and regularly explained the situation and assured us all possible progress was being made.

2. Say You’re Sorry: I’m a fanatic about leadership language. Words have such power. The captain talked a lot about “some more bad news”. Better to just give us the facts – and hold off on the emotion. But even more importantly, say “sorry” when you need to say sorry. Many of us missed our connections and were caused inconvenience because of this mechanical issue. Yet no one took responsibility.

3. Show Your Customers a Little Humanity: While we waited, the agents could have handed out bottles of water. Or had some protocol that would make a challenging situation easier (or even fun). Maybe the Plan B could have been a boxed sandwich. Or some special chocolates. Or just walking around checking in with as many passengers as possible to make human connections (I saw one passenger buy Chinese food and share it with people around him…shared decency amidst adversity).

4. Go Beyond Expectations: Most businesses don’t even deliver on what they promise in their advertising and sloganeering. Imagine, when we arrived in Houston (it was nearly midnight), if we were provided with transport to a hotel, a healthy meal, and a letter on check in wishing us a great night, while thanking us for giving the airline our business.

Business brilliance is pretty simple. Maybe not easy.  But pretty simple. And it begins with caring about the people who keep you going.

Keep Leading Without A Title!

Robin Sharma

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42 Responses to “The Rare Art of Customer Delight”

  1. Pankaj Nikam says:

    awesome robin! Interesting way to treat the customers! Was worth reading. Again a motivating and inspiring blogpost! Thanks a lot for helping me to be a LWT

  2. Kaleo Farias says:

    The brand new pre-launched book entitled, The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk is the newest book that specifically addresses all of these issues posted in this blog. Highly recommended everyone who wants to take what Robin has brought up to a higher level of awareness for all of us to draw upon. Keep “LWT,” everyone!!!

  3. Dear Robin,

    This is a fantastic yet very simple and nice article about very basic human values. One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to be able to incorporate them in her/his line of work. It doesn’t cost anything at all to a company to be polite and nice to its customers when they are troubled due to the inefficiency or some sort of unforeseen situations….

    You have rightly said-”the way you do one thing is the way you do everything”.

  4. v.s.meenakshi says:

    Human care and concern-this is the need of the hour….you are propogating the hourly need to the globbe…gear up with awsome thoughts…and make us to follow your thougts….good deeds/thoughts always lead good actions…

  5. v.s.meenakshi says:

    Human care and concern-this is the need of the hour….you are propogating the hourly need to the globe…gear up with awesome thoughts…and make us to follow your thoughts….good deeds/thoughts always lead 2 good actions…

  6. Jamie Goren says:

    Robin,

    Spot on as usual. Not rocket science. As Tom Peters always says…The problem is never the problem. Customers will make allowance because we are all human. They undersatnd that noone is perfect. What seperates decent companies from excellent ones is how they respond to problems. It is a message that I have been trying to communicate o our employees and management team regularly and with , I might add, some success. We are winning contracts weekly because we take responsibility and always endeavor to make a bad situation better. Are we perfect? Far from it! But we readily accept responsibility and do what is right to make the customer’s experience a good one.
    I will bet that the airline you were flying is having a tough time competing with their more forward thinking rivals.

  7. Steve says:

    I find it absolutely staggering that the airline in question did nothing to compensate their customers let alone be empathetically apologetic in these challenging times. I would think they lost alot of customers over that one. Or at least one(and if you share brand-hundreds!)
    Steve

  8. Harshi says:

    Hi Robin.. this was so wonderful to read. A real-life situation, and inspiring, motivating, enlightening thoughts and reminders on what we all can do in a situation with customers when we are faced with a challenge. We learn so much from observation, and how we ourselves are treated as customers esp. during some key moments. Our personal experience illuminates what is needed. The not-so-great services have so much value that way in teaching us about the missing links.

    You are right, communication is so important. Keeping in touch with customers relaxes them. One can sense their thankfulness and relief when we just communicate, even if it’s to relay a message without the results they expect. I was reminded of some moments, when I myself hesitated to rise to a call to action in the past – to think on my feet, speak up, and take charge. The urge was there, but it was a confidence issue I think. I am improving with awareness, experience, knowing that I can go on despite fear, and as I continue to develop a more sound sense-of-self and missions in life. When the value of the big picture inspires us, our smaller human concerns cannot stand in the way.

    This is a wake-up call and reminder too, to check in with what we advertise about our services, and to match that in our actions. It’s also a call to not let ego and fear get in the way. We underestimate our customers humanity, I feel. They appreciate and understand, when we are being honest and genuine. If we lose people, so be it. But nothing can match the care and integrity one can display.

    I really liked what you mentioned about the actions of a person who LWT, having nothing to do with what they are being paid or how they are being treated. I had always had trouble agreeing that one depends on the other. It didn’t feel right. Our personal responsibility and work-ethic, care for the people we serve, the passion for the work we do and the meaning we find in it..transcend all of those conditions.

    Sorry for making this long..
    Thanks for the post Robin… Very precious.

  9. Hi Robin, Thanks for sharing.

    Unfortunately this is not the first I have read where airlines don’t do the simplest of things. I have children who fly unaccompanied from Sweden to Toronto via Frankfurt several times a year. They missed their flight one time due to weather in Frankfurt. The only flight out that day was a flight with Air Canada. They had room for my two children aged 11 and 13 but they refused to accept them because they were not being transferred from another AC flight (only a partner flight). They were forced to stay overnight in a Hotel Fortunately, Lufthansa handles things very well and took good care of my children – a Lufthansa employee stayed overnight in an adjoining room then took them back to the airport the next day for them to fly to Toronto. The boys get so see their dad only on school vacations and for a short time at that. It would have been so easy for Air Canada to accept them.

    Again, another company where customer service has been forgotten about.

    Thanks for all your inspiration! Kristi

  10. Arielle Wizman says:

    Hi Robin,

    Thanks for sharing. There are so many companies today that are lacking in customer service. The smallest of gestures goes such a long way in making a customer happy and keeping them loyal. Companies and their employees don’t realize that a smile or saying I’m sorry-even if the situation is out of their control goes a long way in making the customer feel like they matter and that the employee/company actually cares.
    I was thinking, as you travel and give lectures on “leading without a title”, maybe you could have lectures or a division on giving world class customer service ! I would be on the band wagon.

    Thanks Robin.

  11. Bernie says:

    We seem to have become accustomed to a world where we want to be treated with dignity, respect, honesty and trust and yet we prepare ourselves to be lied to, taken advantage of, have promises broken. Where if you have a problem, the ears of the person who is paid to be the professional contact of the company / product only opens when you make a scene, if you shout or rant or demand to see someone of higher authority. Why do people not realize the power they have in their hands to improve themselves by treating others better, to be professional, respectful, honest! The circle turns and as you treat others you will be treated. As you walk your path so your path will be laid out for you.
    Everyone has the choice how to act in any situation. And everyone is influenced by the powers that be as their example, from the way the boss treats his team mates to the way a parent influences their child. We are all responsible.

  12. Karina says:

    Dear Robin,
    I was Flight attendant for 10 years, and I lived this moments a lot of times, I tried during this 10 years to do my best, I think the people that works in customer service must to love what they do, I know that the delates some times are necesary but we have a commitment with our customers, in this years I met great people, when I had delates I tried to be in their shoes, in fact the delates are special moments that an employee have to make your best, and the passenger will think that it´s flying in the best airline because the customer service make the BIG diference, now I work in hotel, that be cause some passengers offer me jobs in the service area, I love my new job too, now I remember that I was a guest during 10 years and I want that my guests feel like in home, like some times I would like to feel or like in many hotels made me feel, I´m in quality service area, and it´s no easy it´s a hard work be cause some partenrs think that if I don´t have a TITLE, I can´t do it good but I think that each day I´m studying my career with each person that I meet. I think the important it´s to love what you do and do your best, I had read a lot of your books and I will be eternally grateful with you, in fact I will try to go to Guadalajara to your conference.
    Thank you very much for all your wisdom.

  13. Shiv says:

    Thanks Robin for sharing this insight. This prompted me to recommit myself to two things –

    1) I have to be aware of the possibility of dissatisfaction around me – as a father, son, and spouse and as a colleague due to my action and inaction.
    2) Having become aware of this dissatisfaction, I need to work either reduce the paid or genuinely say “sorry” for my actions.

    The next 365 days, I will be testing myself on this resolution. If I pass, then, hopefully this would become my second nature.

    Thanks once again for providing me with a mirror and learning opportunity.

  14. Shiv says:

    Thanks Robin for sharing this insight. This prompted me to recommit myself to two things –

    1) I have to be aware of the possibility of dissatisfaction around me – as a father, son, spouse and as a colleague due to my action and inaction.
    2) Having become aware of this dissatisfaction, I need to work either to reduce the pain or genuinely say “sorry” for my actions.
    The next 365 days, I will be testing myself on this resolution. If I pass, then this would become my second nature.

    Thanks once again for providing me with a mirror and learning opportunity

  15. LolitA DelArosA says:

    when A customer approached you, you must always have a perfect answer to whatever the customer may want from you as a customer representative. That when you will prove that you always have something to give to make your customers happy instead of running away from you/

  16. Mehmet Emin Yuksekbas says:

    Hi robin,
    I just hope that the airline that caused the inconvenience and did not take the responsibility or had the back up plan would read your blog first… though your words address every business and every person that is producing anything!!! It is easier to make up for the mistake and make the customer happy than to aggravate them by hiding your head like an ostrich! I have lived through these delays many times myself but I dont remember any airline doing what you suggest them to do!!!

  17. Mostafiz Rahman says:

    great article, very helpful. many thanks for sharing. rgds, mostafiz

  18. Sushant says:

    Hi Robin,

    Well said and absolutely right. Its strange but many businesses acrosss the globe are making this as common practise and despite decline in business, not much corrections are being done.

    One of the many reasons is complete lack of proper customer feedback system. It would be better if you would have named the airlnes as well, I believe its the only way news may perculate to senior managment and even then if nothing is changed / heard, atleast all like minded people can make a choice without going through the rough experience individually.

  19. Claude says:

    A problem is often an opportunity to rise above the hubris and show that your company is a cut above. No one would want to cause problems to have this opportunity (kind of like starting an argument to have the opportunity to apologise nicely afterwards), but they sometimes come as “gifts”, and that is our moment to rise, shine and dazzle. The challenge is to frame problems as potential opportunities and to have the mindset of how to make “lemonade out of the lemon” when they occur.

  20. seema Kumar says:

    robin,
    this is something that is experienced by us all the time….and look at indian railways!
    someone should really start an awareness campaign about it..
    why not you

  21. Vijay says:

    Although I agree with the concept of letting the customers know whats happening behind the scenes, imagine the following scenario

    It is also who you have on the field at the moment. If the flight had told there will be a delay of 2 to 3 hrs upfront, they would have to take in the frustration of all the customers. The flight manager, having thought of that, could have preferred to take it one at a time. All this is very situational, and also depends on which flight Robin chose. I am sure it also depends on the flight, but this response from this airline is not consistent across all flights.

  22. Anandhavel says:

    Hi Robin,

    Good article, worth reading. Every business peoples should follow ur guidelines to make their customers happy.

    Thanks once again for providing a good article.

    Regards,
    Anandhavel.

  23. Tana says:

    Dear Robin Sharma

    I am unfortunately faced with the same problem and I would like an advice from you. In the company I work in, I am supposed to liasing with pilots and other crew members so as send money bi-monthly or so to them and sometimes, we , the finance department, have a financial constraint and cannot send money right away to them ( they are in Africa). I am in charge of communicating this to them but I have received complaints saying that I am too harsh in my emails. The thing is I cannot tell them that we have a financial constraint , so I try to be neutral and very brief in my emails.

    I think they really do misinterpret it! Could you please advise how I could communicate to them effectively so as not to discourage them and also by not revealing the real situation in our department?

    Many Thanks

    Tana

  24. robin says:

    Well first i MUST thank each and every one of you for posting. These are some of the best comments i’ve ever read in reply to one of my blog posts. Kristi, hard to believe the experience with your two young kids on that air journey.

    Harshi pls don’t apologize for the length of your post. it was thoughtful and intelligent.

    again, to each of you, i learned a lot from your replies and so did all our other LWT Community readers. thanks

  25. angela szpojda says:

    I have had so many similar experiences but there have been amultiple amount of ways that airlines-companies deal with these interactions.

    Hopefully if you ever fly qantas you will not have a similar experience.

    As always love the customer service-humanity aspect of your messages.

    Angie

  26. Sarah Guay-Tremblay says:

    Sorry but i will write you in french. (Québec city)

    Wow! M. Sharma, cet article est fabuleux.
    La réflexion du savoir faire et du savoir être.
    Quelle différence pouvons nous faire au quotidien dans notre entreprise pour recréer cette atmosphère si lumineuse et optimiste.

    En effet, il ne s’agit que de quelques gestes et attentions. Je suis heureuse de constater de par mon expérience que cela entraîne au succès à tout coup.
    Ça fait toujours chaud au coeur de transmettre l’amour et l’humanité à la clientèle car ce service a toujours sa place dans le milieu des affaires.

    Merci M. Sharma pour cet article de qualité et merci d’exister.

    Sarah :)

  27. fayaz says:

    thanks robin.
    great article.

  28. VISWANATHAN says:

    Simple & honest communication – could have made difference.

  29. Suren Sobarun says:

    Thanks Robin. This is a case study that applies to everyone of us and awakes us in any field of life. It is not easy to work with customers but those who love to do this job will never find it difficult to say sorry or go out of their way. But very often some companies will not give a chocolate or a coffee or a treat because the boss is afraid to increase his cost. People in customer service are ready to go for another mile but they must be empowered. People on the frontline have the broadest back and LWT keeps me alert more than ever.

  30. yasmeen says:

    Hi
    Just want to say that today people take other people for granted and instead of providing a good service for all the times due to which they are most recognised people think that their customers will never leave them. may be some wont but many will. I think the best they could have done was to just say sorry. It is a small word but it will always leave an impact on the people when you truly are trying to deliever what you feel. Customers are important because they are the main source for success or faluire of business as they will give in end what all business wants. It do depend upon comapny how to get more customers and to satisfy the people who always trust them. trust is important.

  31. Dheeraj Srivastava says:

    Dear Robin,

    I worked for a good long years in Hospitality Industry. There Customer is Guest and he is treated the very best.

  32. Sai says:

    The gist of the post sort of reflects the attitude of a well known hotel chain that I recently chose for my stay. Using all types of, what I call bingo words, the sales person convinced me to book a room in the “Executive Floor” of this hotel. Though she warned me that there was construction going on at the hotel, what she didn’t tell me was that there would be construction work being done in the same building where I was assigned a room. What was supposed to be a vacation turned into a nightmare! I didn’t complain about any of this to the onsite manager as my attempts would’ve been futile.

    Later I received an email for a customer satisfaction survey and I let them have it! The manager got back to me offering an invitation to return for a complimentary stay, which of course was a very nice gesture. I had made it clear in my communication with the manager that if the hotel was trying to pull off any gimmick then spare me the trouble and save themselves the time. Lo and behold I receive a letter for a complimentary stay that would be valid only till February 29, 2011 and the letter was postmarked 03/01/2011. THAT is what got me really ticked off and it was adding insult to injury.

    I sent them a response but its been close to 2 weeks and i’m yet to receive any kind of communication. If the founder of this chain were in existence today I’m pretty positive that half the staff at the location in question would’ve been fired, or maybe not, depending on whether he was a LWT or a Leader Who just loves Titles…

    Thanks for sharing your experience Robin,
    Cheers,
    Sai

  33. Kari Vardøy says:

    Hi Robin & all readers of this post.

    I just read this article, and found it to be perfect to share with you; simply FANTASTIC…

    http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2p248X/gizmodo.com/5731946/pilot-stops-plane-for-family-of-murdered-son

    Have a Wonderful Friday & a Great weekend,

    with Love – Kari

  34. Is it ok if I quote your article in my monthly newsletter? I would think this article suits my topic perfectly. Well ya, thanks for posting this article.

  35. Shivani Chouhan says:

    This is a wonderful article. Really helpful for business ppl to correlated the saying”As you sow, so shall u reap”. Every business can create wonderfull opportunities for growth even in worse situattion. In this Articel i have learned that iys the Heartily Care for customers which makes them happy.. Gratitude is the key for Winning Every Situation….Really Wonderful Article.

  36. Ashwani says:

    .
    CHANGE CHANGE CHANGE I Love you all

  37. Iliana says:

    Thank you for the wisdom and advise!

  38. sunita goel says:

    excellent idea. already using in my work and getting amazing results

  39. Ganesh says:

    Hello Robin Sir..

    What i had gone through is really good knowledgeble stuff, as I read your one of the best books is THE MEGA LIVING .. Is so inspiring Thanks..

  40. Yaseera says:

    This is the one line I was looking for, “when a business treats its people poorly, its people treat their customers poorly.” I so wish I could hammer a bit of this into the head of a business I worked for some time ago. Sometime, I fail to understand how even the most successful managers overlook such an important fact.

  41. frank kagema says:

    Whatever the business problems a company is going through, the customer is still king. Surprisingly customers are vety forgiving if communicated to with words snd gestures that show you care

  42. Mae Sorral says:

    Customer service is like a chain. If the company is able to take care of their employees well, this people is motivated also to give a good service to their clients. And if clients feel they are attended to or they were able to meet their expectation, sometimes beyond their expectation, there is a big chance they will go back or they will promote it to other people. In this busy world today, its very important how we will take care the people who keep us in our bussiness not only the clients that we have.

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