From the flight deck ….

Three trips in three weeks gave me a chance to “secret shop” 5 different airlines and 7 airports. It’s really been a lesson in the do’s and don’ts of customer service. Being one who always tries to find the lesson I can use in my business, here’s a few that translate to associations.

  • Given the option to deal with a window seat or pay $15 for a choice seat on US Air’s cross-country flight, I opted to kick-in the dough. Lesson: you can sell premium items even in tougher economies when the price is less than the perceived value of the comfort afforded.
  • A visit to the woman’s room in Charlotte airport surprised me … it was clean, Listerine with single use cups and a few other convenience items were available on the counter, and a cheerful employee drew my towels for me and cleaned the counter. Wow – that’s surprising the customer!
  • I would be remiss in noting that there was a tip jar in that bathroom. At first this sight triggered an “OMG, I have to pay to use the bathroom now!” which was followed by a smile when I experienced the rest of the visit and saw how motivated the employee was. Lesson: the right motivation works, but be careful of potential fall-out. (Think of the member discount you give to new member that the renewing member frowns at.)
  • The choice is yours (for a fee). US Air is proud to announce the availability of wifi beginning next year. They also touted choice of meals, selection of snacks, and new additions to their drink menu. But, none of that comes with the freedom of not paying. $7 for a meal, $3-5 for a bite, $3 for that Red Bull, Starbucks Frappuccino or Arizona Lite Half & Half, price unpublished for wifi. And do you want one of the new mixers sans alcohol? Fine, that’ll be $1. All these added to charge for checked luggage. Bottom line, it feels like nickel & diming to me – largely because much of these were available for free. Lesson: yes add premiums and allow me to build my trip but don’t pretend I’m getting choices when the options consist of what I used to get for free.
  • My Delta flight was packed and because of the luggage fees, many carried bags on. That meant too many bags for the space. It was amazing to see the number of items clearly exceeding the size limits and how many people exceeded the limit of two items. Along came a woman with one compliant bag who was forced to check her bag. Her loud complaint resonated with me: why was she being penalized when so many had oversized bags and more than the required number taking up more room that she was allowed. Lesson: don’t penalize the rule followers.
  • So I’m getting on plane at 9:30a and stop in Starbucks to grab lunch (it’s a cross-country flight). Can’t get a cookie because – get this they don’t offer cookies until 11am. Hello? That may be reasonable at a corner Starbucks where we’re all pretty much on the same time zone. By requiring practices to be duplicated across all venues without regard to situation means losing sales. Hmmm … how many times do our rigid chapter policies have the same outcome?

I didn’t know flying could be such a learning lab. What did you find out on your last trip?