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Always ON

Being ON for your customers

After speaking at a recent trade show, this writer flew Southwest Airlines from Las Vegas to Tampa with a stopover in Nashville. The flight from Las Vegas to Nashville was the type of flight I enjoyed and had expected to experience from Southwest; flight attendants and crew members engaging in conversations with passengers. They were telling jokes, tossing bags of peanuts to passengers, singing, and other various forms of engaging the passengers.

At the end of the flight, this announcement was made, "Thanks for flying our airline. If you had a good time, this was Southwest flight #157. If you did not have a good time, this was Delta flight #1."

In Nashville, all but five passengers got off. Oddly enough, the five all sat in the same area. There was a discussion among us about our flight as the Nashville to Tampa flight was quite different from the first one. The pilot, the same on both flights, was "matter of fact" with his comments in the only time he spoke. The flight attendants while also the same as the first flight, gave the type of service that is usually experienced on planes. They served the customary drinks and snacks, but something was missing.

Passengers were not given the individual attention that we had experienced in the first flight. The fun was gone, and now the Southwest flight attendants were performing the job in the same manner that other airlines do.

Our seating group of five commented to each other about the differences in the two flights. One passenger commented, "They are acting like the Delta crew they were just making fun of."

As we got off the plane, we watched the flight attendants and crew stand in the usual place in the front of the plane with the traditional meaningless and lack of conviction comments of "thank you" and "good night". As a couple of us would be among the last to get off the plane, we decided to inquire as to why the difference in the two flights.

The response by the Southwest flight attendant, while lengthy and filled with a combination of explanations, could be summarized by the last sentence she gave. "Hey, we can't always be on."

Of course, anyone can have an off day; a headache, a cold, a problem at home with the kids, or dealing with personal finances. Almost everyone has the occasion where they have gone to work with less than an ideal personal situation. However, when it comes to interacting with customers, co- workers, management, or even the delivery person from UPS, being "on" is not an option.

If you are truly a professional at what you do then your job requires you to be "on" when you perform your duties.

How many times have you worked with someone who always has a smile on their face? The person who always has a kind word for their co-workers and at least two kind words for each customer. These are the staff members that customers ask for by name.

The pleasant disposition is not something that can be taught. More simply it is a situation that can be pointed out to a new staff person as they observe a co-worker who is enjoying their work or their interaction with the customer.

Of course, there are just some people who are not suited to work in situations where they are to interact with customers.

This writer remembers speaking to a group about this issue. Visiting with one of the attendees some six months later, she said that as I spoke, she knew exactly the person in her business that I was talking about.

While her business rarely had a customer issue a complaint, she was surprised if the complaint was about anyone other than this one staff member. She went on to say that she had a restless night thinking about the situation.  And when she went to work the next day, the first thing she did was to terminate that employee.

Hearing that story, I gasped and asked what happened next. Her response was, "That was the best thing I ever did for my business. And I felt a lot better afterwards."

Not recommending this as a cure all for any business, there are two other points that need to be made. The first is that the person who is not "ON", is indirectly working to cause all of their co-workers to not be "ON". It is like algae in a pool. It spreads, and it spreads rapidly. Like the algae, it does not just go away on its own; it has to be treated.

The second point is that a management person that is "ON" can do more to get the rest of the staff in the "ON" position than the lowest ranking staff person can do to get their "ON" position to filter up through the business.

Undoubtedly, you know the advantages of you and your staff being "ON". The disadvantages of not being "ON"? Most likely your customers will tell others about their experience. Much like this writer told of his experience of a Southwest Airline staff that decided to "not be ON".

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site: www.profitsplus.org


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