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>In today’s world of airline travel, you are lucky if you get that bag of peanuts anymore. It has almost become a joke among frequent flyers about how much worse can it get? For me, the most brutal cut came in the removal of the blankets. I always get cold on flights, so now I wear a warm-up suit whenever I fly even though I know it must look out-of-place walking through the Orlando airport in July with temps of 100 degrees outside. But, what’s left? Does it make a difference with all the cuts, if the flight personnel try to be friendly, helpful and have a positive attitude? A mystery shopper has decided to fly ten of the busiest airlines and report back on AOL their findings. See AOL Mystery Flyer

As I look through the first report out on AirTran, it is interesting to see what the mystery flyer constitutes as being nice. He/she has literally taken a service walk through each of the various touch points in the flying process and analyzed them as to whether it was an okay/mediocre point of contact or if it was a “feel good” moment that scored the airline a point.

Is there a price for nice? Not when you look at what it took to get points:
• help getting a seat changed by toll-free operator in a pre-flight request
• friendliness of ticketing agent at check-in noted by patience and helpfulness
• efficiency of gate agent at end of flight

Do these actions really cost the airline anything extra? No, yet, they have an impact on the pleasantness of the experience of the passenger.

What was noted as not being nice?
• robotic voice tone answering questions
• neutral attitude, no eye contact, annoyance at questions
• overheard employee conversations of complaints and frustrations
• lack of cheer

When it comes down to all things comparable and considering airlines today are mostly a commodity service, the only competitive differentiator is going to be the passenger experience. As passengers start to make choices for choosing the airline who not only gets them from point A to point B on time, but also on “Niceness”, there will be a price to those airlines who lose their business.

Whether you are in the airlines or some other industry, every business has customer touch points. The customer experience is made up of the points of contact and possible points of contact that surround the “product” (in flying, the actual product is the flight itself). The key is to map the process looking through the lens of the customer and determine what mediocre service would look like at each point and then to describe what excellent service would look like at each step. There are usually many opportunities throughout the experience for improvement. The culmination of the exercise is outlining an approach for employees to deliver an outstanding customer experience for that process. See Service Mapping for more details on how to do this with your staff. What is the cost to be nice? The better question is how much is it costing your company to not be nice?

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