Customer Service Loyalty – The Connection!

On a recent Continental ExpressJet flight to  Louisville, KY (USA),  I watched a competent flight attendant service the entire plane of customers by herself.  This is common on these smaller jets and I have had good to superb service on various ExpressJet flights depending on the flight attendant.

Flickr By: ChrisK4u

Flickr By: ChrisK4u

This flight attendant’s demeanor during beverage service was cool, distant, and yes a bit impersonal.  After doing beverage service, the flight attendant sat down since the flight was only half-full.  She sat in an empty seat on the aisle across from me.

At one point she started to chat with me and her demeanor became very personable and warm.  The difference was striking.   Later in the flight she arose to do a second beverage service and her demeanor again was cool and distant.   I understood that she couldn’t chat with every customer during beverage service because of time restrictions.  Yet her smile was gone and her tone of voice was much cooler and quite different up in front of all the customers.

Because of my work, this intrigued me.  Had she been given training that told her to be cool and distant?  Or was she an introvert on the personality scale and only felt comfortable when she was speaking one-on-one?  Or is there some ‘behavioral effect’ that kicks in when people perform an official role?

Regardless of the reasons for her cool attitude during service, I offer all service professionals this simple advice:

  1. Customers are loyal to great connections; cool and distant doesn’t connect.
  2. Even in very formal settings, reserved is not cool and distant.  Know the difference.
  3. In less formal settings, shine your warmth on the customers; the connection makes the difference.

Believe it — customers remember moments. What do you want them to remember?

11 Responses to “Customer Service Loyalty – The Connection!”

  1. Debby Beachy says:

    Great advice, a warm smile and happy personality that says “I’m happy to be here” a customer will always come back”.

  2. Pattie Roberts says:

    Wow, Kate, what an observation! Great story and great lesson to learn. Who doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of a genuine smile? Or a bit of warm personal attention? Life can be tough, and even a moment of respite from the slings and arrows, provided by a service professional’s commitment to connect, can be a big factor in choosing one service over another. All things being equal, I’m going to want to be around the company whose people are nice to be around. Tip of the hat to ExpressJet!

    Cheers,

    Pattie

  3. Cindy King says:

    Hi Kate,

    This is interesting. I suspect this might come from training, but I’m do not know from sure.

    I know that I do something when dealing with international clients. To me it’s as if I do not show the “real me”, instead, mentally I turn myself 45° and show the professional me which is directly in front of my international clients. (The “real me” is not gone completely, it’s only at a 45° angle looking off to the side) This helps me to stop (over-)reacting to cultural differences, with my own cultural (and personal) baggage and to remain in a professional setting. It also helps me to stay 100% business focused, for example when some cultures like to get much more “personal” than I’m comfortable with this helps me to keep my barriers very clear.

  4. Yun-Mei Lin says:

    Hello, Kate – discovered your website recently. This post reminds me of the time where I, as a seasoned waitress of over 12 years, advised my younger sister, who was waitressing only until her dancing career took off, that she might do better to smile at her customers now and again. Two weeks later, I received a phone call from her, where she told me how she couldn’t believe how much her tips had increased – more than doubled.

  5. Janice Rivard says:

    Hi Kate, I agree. I tell others to change your approach do something different. Customers don’t expect this style but welcome it. Customer’s have the right to quality service. Plus, the unexpected higher level of service will increase customer relationships and company’s ROI. That’s a good thing!!
    Janice

  6. As someone who as been on both sides of the equation, I can sympathize with the stewardess. She’s doing the same job, with little variety, over and over. I can understand how the smile can disappear with time. She’s obviously seeing this as a chore, not a job or career.
    I may sympathize with it, but I don’t condone it. Smiles, even if not felt internally, can be painted on. You are the face of the company and that face doesn’t want to connect with me = I’m going to your competitor.
    If you don’t like your job, get a new one. If you can’t get a new one, make the one you have count.
    Kate, thanks for directing me to your blog. I’ve posted a link on my new blog going up later today. Until them, here’s my guest blog on air service:
    http://theupsell.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/westjet-guest-blog-from-shaezg/

  7. Tessa says:

    Hi Kate

    What is interesting is that it would have taken the same amount of effort to smile and be pleasant and she would have felt better too.

    Tessa

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Exactly Tessa. And she smiled a lot while she was speaking with me one on one. Then her attitude changed as soon as she stood up. Quite a study in customer service attitudes for me. Many thanks for your contribution to this discussion. I welcome your insights on the recent posts on staying objective with a rude (thorny) customer — Best Mindset to Have with Rude Customers

      Best wishes,
      Kate

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