The 3 Secrets to “Wow!”-Worthy Customer Service

Every time I fly JetBlue Mint, I’m reminded that great service is possible, even in an industry as hated-on as the airlines. Today I’m on a flight from San Francisco to NYC and enjoying every minute of it. When was the last time you said that about a flight?

JetBlue’s experiment with its new Mint level of service has clearly been a hit, based on the rapidly escalating fares – but it will take quite a few more dollars to convince me to fly any other way.

What JetBlue is doing to wow me isn’t rocket science (or even plane science). Really, it just boils down to common sense, which seems to be incredibly uncommon today when it comes to providing great customer service.

Secret 1: Have ‘em at “hello.”

Today’s airport experience is enough to make anyone grumpy. You schlep around your carry-on and wait in an endless line, only for the reward of being poked and prodded by TSA.

But when you arrive at the waiting area of a JetBlue gate, it’s like an oasis from the craziness. The customer service agents are smiling, making eye contact and actually conversing… and not from a script.  

The experience extends to your boarding: You arrive in your Mint Pod (yup, you can get a private pod) where you have a welcome note signed by the two flight attendants who are serving the cabin – in my case Thomas and Z.  From that point on, every interaction seems like a visit with a friend, each as authentic as the last. Thomas and Z made sure I was settled and understood all of the operational features of my pod. Most importantly they offered me a welcoming cocktail (with or without alcohol; some of us are working after all!).

Whether it be the flight captain emerging from the cockpit to welcome everyone, or simply Thomas and Z remembering our names, it’s the little touches that add up – with those first few impressions setting the tone.

Secret 2: Don’t hoard customer service feedback on a “need to know” basis.

At JetBlue, they don’t decide who should get customer service data – it’s shared with everyone in the organization, from front-line agents to pilots to baggage handlers. That way everyone knows for a fact what customers are thinking and feeling about their service, and not just the disgruntled ones who don’t hold back. Sometimes employees miss out on hearing the good stuff too!

Another way to really hammer home the importance of customer service is by putting your money where your mouth is. Alaska Airlines knows that it’s the front-line employees who contribute to its financial success, so when the company makes money, the employees do, too. Last year, Alaska paid out more than $98 million in bonuses to its 14,000 employees, an average of five weeks of salary in a year-end bonus for every employee.

Secret 3: Give employees the keys and point them to the destination.

Every JetBlue employee is told two things:  “do what is right” and “put the humanity back into air travel”. Then, they are offered broad latitude to decide how to put that into practice with their guests.

Most customer service programs focus on providing scripted words and actions that are one-size-fits-all… and that’s why they fail.  JetBlue sees and listens to their frontline employees as the most important touchstone for customers. Their leaders are tasked with creating a great working environment and providing support and training –  but they allow their people to “take the wheel” when it comes to doing what’s right for customers.

If you really want to energize your team, get them talking about their best customer service experiences, and how your team can replicate them with your own customers.  Helping them see the point on the map where you’re trying to arrive will allow them to make the right decisions in the moment with customers – particularly when roadblocks pop-up.

What leadership tools are you using to engage your team in building customer experience for your customers?

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