You might wonder sometimes why employee engagement is so valuable. What benefits can it have outside of a nice workplace to work in, come on, really? Well, first, having a workplace where people are motivated to do their jobs and enjoy the people they work with isn’t half a bad thing. Second, employee engagement can determine how willing your clients are to work with you. How much damage can disengaged employees do to your brand through their interaction with clients? I guess the answer is about 9 times the value of an average customer. I was going to validate this with an Internet reference, but there were so many, you must have read one already. Think on this: if the average person relates a bad experience to nine friends/colleagues/family members – in other words, prospective or existing customers – then they are capable of depriving you of the custom of those nine people.
Boarding passengers is so boring
Last week, I found myself boarding a plane in Sydney bound for home in Melbourne at about 6:15pm. It was the end of a long day for me and clearly a long day for the hostesses who were scanning the boarding passes. They looked completely indifferent to the experience. Maybe it was their fourth flight for the day and maybe I am too critical. Regardless, I was paying the same airfare for my flight that the guy or girl did who got a smile from the same hostess’s on the hostess’s first flight that day.
There were about 50 plus people both in front and behind me in the queue, as I pulled along my trusty carry-on bag like a reluctant pet dog, the bag that had been my cabin companion for the past few years on 20 or more flights. I purchased that bag carefully from the Myer department store in Melbourne and I might say, only after having had quite some discussion with the luggage lady, confirming it would definitely comply with carry on rules.
At the head of the queue, the tired and disinterested hostesses had pulled a couple of young blokes aside to weigh a clearly oversized bag and they were tagging and sending it down to the cargo hold. The young blokes seemed to find it quite amusing, a bit like almost getting away with a bit of a prank in the classroom and being reprimanded in front of their mates.
The naughty boy gets VIP treatment
Now I am one of those people who doesn’t like pressure boarding a plane. I don’t quench my thirst in the frequent flyer lounge until boarding is called then run for the gate. I’d be happy to strap on a neck brace or steal a wheelchair just to get priority boarding. There’s nothing quite like stowing your bag in the overhead locker in order to retrieve it “carefully because items may have moved in transit” for a quick getaway later when you arrive. So when I finally reached the scanning point ready to roll, already way behind most of the passengers boarding, you can imagine my irritation when I was pulled aside like a common recalcitrant.
“Your bag’s oversized, we will have to check it”, came the very monotone directive accompanied by a look of disdain. As a rule I am not confrontational. I am one of those “whoops he just snapped and went postal”, types of people. I remain calm on the outside right up until the moment the alien emerges. So I complied without argument. They weighed my bag and sure, it was a kilo over. It was a remarkable observation and estimation by the hostess. It was made even more remarkable by the way in which she could tell the other items being carried in the queue that filed past me in the naughty corner (including lamp shades, surfboards, elephants in suitcases) were neither overweight or oversize. If you had given me $10 for every other bag I identified in that aircraft cabin that was either overweight, or oversize I would have made a tidy sum.
The point is, I may have been in the wrong, weight-wise, although that’s not why I was pulled aside, but I was given unwanted VIP treatment that was inconsistent with the rest of their passengers. That and the fact I had carried the same bag onto their planes on 15 or 20 other occasions incident-free really annoyed me. What do I do now? I don’t know what to expect from them on the next flight. Should I never try to carry that bag on again? Do I go out and spend another $250 to buy a smaller bag, more than what that airfare was worth. Inconsistent service is equally as annoying as poor service. If it’s going to be poor, then ok, that’s what I will choose to pay for, or otherwise, and I will get what I am expecting.
Regardless, as I say, I was compliant without argument and they dismissed me distastefully into the tunnel and onto their aeroplane that was running 30 minutes late.
Why max out at 9, I spread the love to 40 potential customers
So, as luck would have it, the very next day I was chairing a client forum on client service with about 30 or 40 attendees. It fell from the sky, this story of client service, with a little embellishment perhaps (I admit – there were no elephants). It made a nice story to accompany my introductory words on the importance of excellent client service. Of course I named the airline, which I won’t do now. In one report I had spread disparaging feedback to 40 people. Vengeance was mine.
Hand on heart, I can tell you in all honesty that on a personal flight, I would pay a premium, maybe even 10% to fly on this airline’s major opposition. I have always felt this way. Paying a premium for an almost identical outcome is worth it in my mind, if the service is better. In this way, I know what I am getting, there are no surprises, and there is consistency. I also hope for a smile and some empathy from the staff.
Your behaviour, your attitude, your service and that of your team is critical to word of mouth endorsements. You work hard to have one customer who has had a positive experience share that with maybe two friends, but it takes very little effort for the same customer to spread a negative experience to nine friends.
Be sure you and your team are engaged. Be engaged with your client. And even if it’s the end of a long, tiring day, don’t forget to give them a smile. You could probably do with the cheering up as much as they could.