Why Technical Success Is Not Enough.

shallow focus photography of people inside of passenger plane

I was on a plane recently where the flight attendant never smiled. He had a scowl on his face the entire flight.

It’s amazing how this little thing made me feel like I was an inconvenience. It actually had a significant negative impact on me. I really wanted to ask him what his problem was and let him know how unwelcome he made me feel, but I opted to be kind and say nothing.

Anyway, it made me think how important little things like smiling and speaking kindly can be to the customer experience – or any experience for that matter. This guy’s attitude really ruined what was otherwise a successful flight.

This whole misalignment between my flight attendant’s behavior and the success of the flight came into focus when I was reading an interview of restaurateur and hospitality evangelist Danny Meyer where he said the following…

“Consider the experience I generally have flying on an airplane: I arrive alive and on time. I get the drink I asked for. So, the transaction is, you could argue, “perfect”: I get exactly what I paid for.  But the problem is that I don’t get anything more. When they are wheeling the cart down the aisle, not one person looks me in the eye or smiles or makes me feel that I am anything more than somebody occupying a seat.”

Meyer makes a great point here. Many times the service we get is technically perfect, in other words, the product and delivery are completed (my successful flight for example) but it’s the other part, the hospitality part, that is forgotten (my flight attendant).

This reminded me of a friend of mine who used to be a corpsman (medic) in the Navy. We were talking one day about how cold it can feel when you call a help desk for the electric company or the cable company or your internet provider. He said the treatment they give was counter to what he learned in his corpsman training where he was constantly reminded that he must always consider health and comfort. By that, he was referring to the fact that with every problem there is a person attached and you must always attend to both problem and person if you want to truly make things better.

I think that’s a perfect analogy for what great service should look like. There’s the technical delivery (the health part where the problem is solved or product delivered) and then there’s the hospitality piece (the comfort of the person). When both components are aligned, customers have a better experience.

You see, if my flight attendant had just been pleasant, kind, warm, and welcoming with a smile, it would have made the flight perfect because the other things, the technical aspects of getting to my destination alive and on time, were flawless.

Think of your workplace. How are indifferent or bad attitudes showing up? How are they impacting the rest of your team? How might they be infecting others and impacting customers? How might they be ruining the bigger experience?

As my friend made clear, with every problem comes a person and great experiences attend to both.

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