Clarity: Thank You For Flying With Us

I recently traveled to Chicago. I flew on American Eagle. What a great set of opportunities for experiencing customer service. From the purchase of tickets to arrival and check-in at the airport to the flight and arrival.

Three key moments stuck with me. All three from the on plane experience.

As we were departing, our plane was in line behind several others waiting to take off. As passengers our view of the world, of what is happening, is limited. Sure we can see out the little oval windows, but this does not give us a great view of the broader context. We are dependent on information from others.

This is so much like our customers. They don’t see what we see. They don’t know what we know. Like passengers on the airplane, our customers need and want information.

After the plane had pulled away from the gate, the pilot spoke to us over the intercom. He said, “We are number four in line for lift off. It will take a few minutes as we let those before us take off. We are cleared and will be living off in a few minutes. I anticipate a smooth flight. So, sit back, relax and enjoy the flight to Chicago.”

The pilot gave us great SNAP message. He told us,  his customers, what the status was, what the next steps would be, gave us an approximate timeline and let us know what the planned outcome was to be. The SNAP message did not take more than a minute. Like all good SNAP messages, it was simple, to the point, yet comprehensive.

It was a good start.

About 45 minutes into the flight, the flight attendant spoke to us. I can’t really tell you what she said. In fact, I don’t think anyone on the plane can tell you what she said. She spoke fast. Her words were mumbled and not clear. All in all, a weak, if not possibly, a negative SNAP message. It may be better not to give a message if it is not going to be a good message.

Shortly after the flight attendant’s mumbled message, she began the in-flight service. I was about half-way down the cabin in an aisle seat. It took me a little while of just watching — and sensing — to get a good sense of what her message might have been.

She had, of course, announced that the in-flight service would begin. We saw that happen as she rolled the cart into the aisle. What we missed was her letting customers know the costs for snack items and to have cash ready for purchases.

This became very clear to me as she moved down the plane. I could hear her repeating this message over and over, row by row. She seemed frustrated that passengers did not know the basic costs of snacks and did not have cash ready. Many passengers tried to pay with credit cards.

She repeated her message, row by row, over and over. To her credit, she did a good job of remaining cheerful, and covering up her frustration.

Naturally, a good SNAP message, delivered clearly, to benefit her customers, would have significantly improved the in-flight service experience. And, for those of our employees who don’t get it — a good SNAP message makes our job easier.

After landing and taxing for a bit, we came to a stop. The obligatory message was shared about remaining seated with our seat belts fastened until we were actually at the gate. The pilot came back on the intercom. He said, “Please remain seated with your seatbelt fastened. We are just outside the terminal area. We made great time on the flight and have arrived 20 minutes early, so we have a few minutes to wait for our assigned gate to clear. Thank you for choosing American Eagle. We will pull into the gate in just a few minutes.”

The pilot gave us a great SNAP message to begin the flight and gave us another one to end the flight.

This reinforced for me the absolute necessity of clear, meaningful and well timed SNAP messages.

Do you have clear SNAP messages that you routinely use with your customers?

Have you tested these messages?

Do you get customer feedback about the effectiveness of these messages?

Are you prepared to test the messages you use and to improve them if needed?

© 2014 – 2015, Philip Espinosa. All rights reserved.

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Philip Espinosa

As a strategic human resources leader, Philip Espinosa partners with people to deliver value: People | Partnerships | Value serves as his tag line. He believes that service starts with the customer. His book "Deliver Excellent Customer Service with a SNAP” helps others drive customer engagement using simple and consistent communication strategies. A second book titled "Focus On Your Success - 24 Simple Insights To Drive Daily Achievement" (ebook) helps working professionals view their daily choices through a different perspective. In addition to his writing, Philip works with strategic human capital initiatives and has delivered successful results over a career spanning more than 25 years. 

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