Yes, Indeed

You’ve probably had the experience many times of navigating automatic phone prompts before getting to speak to a live person. Often the last thing you hear is: “To participate in a brief customer service survey, please stay on the line at the end of the call.” There are typically multiple questions to answer on a scale of 1-low to 5-high.

A couple weeks ago I was working through an issue with an airline representative about missing mileage credit on one of my international flights. The person was polite, efficient and did an excellent job handling everything.

Since she was so nice, I stayed on the line: “Thank you for helping us be better. The only survey question is ‘Would you hire this person to work in your company?’ Press 1 for Yes. Press 2 for No.” So, of course, I pressed 1.

What a unique approach… and mutually beneficial. The company quickly received feedback on its employee and I disconnected knowing the extra 10 seconds of my time might help that representative get a gold star for performance.

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Surprising Service

Airlines aren’t exactly, shall we say, known for going out of their way to treat customers as you want to be treated. Extra charges for baggage. Extra charges for food. Extra charges for making a change. Crowding another row on the plane then extra charges for seats with more legroom.

Yet, recently, two airlines went out of their way to, shall we say, do good.

Our youngest booked a flight to spend Spring Break at her brother’s new home in Nashville. Then she tore her labrum playing intramural basketball and had to have surgery, which took place hours before my father-in-law died… so she cancelled the reservation. Once things settled down she contacted United and explained the situation, filled out a form, and – voila! – they already refunded the money.

Last week, as I sat in the Calgary airport terminal minutes from boarding, the Air Canada gate agent made an announcement that started with eight words you never want to hear just before a flight: “Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you…” I knew what was coming next. Either “our plane is having mechanical problems” or “we’re awaiting the arrival of our crew.”

In fact, she said, “the entertainment system on our flight is not operating, so I hope you’ll take the next few minutes to download a movie or buy a magazine or book to read.”

To my surprise, once airborne, a flight attendant walked the aisle and handed everyone a card that reads: “We are proud of our entertainment system and regret that you did not have an opportunity to enjoy its use today. As a token of appreciation for your understanding, please accept this offer for a discount on future travel.”

It doesn’t take a lot to make customers feel good about your organization. Perhaps the place to start, shall we say, is with empathy and understanding.

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Great Thoughts

Ideas have flowed through my brain my whole life. I once had a list of about 20 that might be worth pursuing. A few I followed up on. Most fell by the wayside after a little research and further discernment.

(Nobody wanted to fertilize their lawns by placing a pellet in their sprinkler system… all because they worried about it backing up into their water supply. Who knew?)

One idea tuned into a home run: Anthony Travel… a sports travel company. One turned into this 15-year journey of fun: Success Handler, LLC. One appeared in the last 90 days and I was so certain it had legs I immediately reserved the URL for two years.

I shared this idea with a few trusted sources and the response was positive. A couple folks even helped me clarify exactly what I wanted to achieve. I was excited, yet moved slowly, because, well – you know – I have this other gig.

If you ascribe to the theory that the universe is one big giant humongous source of energy, then you might agree that when you have an idea, you’re actually tapping in to the consciousness that already exists. In other words, it ain’t original.

Thus, I shouldn’t have been surprised when six weeks after I came up with this wonderful bit of ingenuity… one of Oprah’s good friends published a book on the same subject.

So I moved on. Just you wait though. I’m thinking about one now that could be big. We’re talking really big.

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Ring Tone-Deaf

During their first homestand of the season, the Astros celebrated the World Series title in style – giving away all kinds of collectibles for fans. Saturday’s loyalty reward was a replica World Series ring, which looks darn close to the $11,000 one players and employees received in an earlier pregame ceremony (other than the fact their 200+ diamonds were real).

So when my son and his girlfriend invited Kathy and me to join them at Minute Maid Park, of course we said yes. Knowing there would be high demand for the ring – given to the first 10,000 fans in attendance – we arrived several hours early. After walking three blocks from a parking lot, we were surprised to see the line wrapping around the stadium.

Not content to join the masses without checking out other entrances, my son ventured around the corner and texted us to join him. Five minutes later we were through the metal detector and inside. Then we learned they had just run out of rings.

Personally, this isn’t a big deal to me, as I’m not much of a collector. However, when I think of all those fans who were still outside in that long line – who arrived long before we did and probably didn’t learn for another hour their efforts would be unrewarded – I can’t help but think the Astros missed a great opportunity.

Perhaps the next time they win the World Series, whether this season or after another 54-year wait – they’ll give every fan who attends the game a ring. That way everybody goes home happy.

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Singular Focus

The first Chick-fil-A sandwich I ever ate was more than 30 years ago in Ft. Worth. The father of a guy I knew was their regional franchise director – and I stopped in soon after he told me about it. That was the first of at least a dozen visits a year, so it’s safe to say, I’ve eaten more than 300 of them… each served with a couple dill pickle chips on top.

While Chick-fil-A expanded its menu over the decades, the classic crispy fried chicken breast sandwich is still the best seller. Those ‘Eat mor Chikin’ cows in the television commercials and on billboards around the country know a good thing when they see it.

Recently I read the average Chick-fil-A does more than $3 million in sales annually. That’s a lot of sandwiches at $3 each. I’ve heard the location right by our house is one of the best in the system… and since there is a line nonstop from early morning, through rush-time lunch, mid-afternoon and well into the dinner hours, their sales must be amazing. (Imagine if they opened on Sundays!)

In contrast, the franchise that started the chicken craze way back in the 50’s with its secret recipe – despite a recent run of television spots featuring well-known actors impersonating the Colonel – averages just under $1 million per location. KFC (rebranded to lessen the Fried focus) doesn’t quite meet the AAAA grade of its rival.

The lesson here comes straight out of Jack Palance in “City Slickers”. Find your one thing and do it really well. Multiple that by 2,000+ locations and you impact a lot of people with a smiling “Welcome to Chick-fil-A” and a cheery “My pleasure to serve you” sendoff.

Note: About 10 years ago, I started ordering the healthier grilled version on most visits to Chick-fil-A. Getting older has its drawbacks.

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