I flew from Vancouver to Los Angeles on Alaska Airlines today. The plane was old. The seats were shabby and the crew did the minimum that was required to be considered "service." All in all it was a great flight.
I'm not being sarcastic. It was a great flight. And the reason was because of the captain.
Once we were up in the air, he came on and started telling us what we could see out the windows. "On the left side of the plane," he said, "you'll get a great view of Mt. Rainier." Then he went on to tell us a bit about Mt. Rainier. About 30 minutes later the captain came on again. This time telling us about the Oregon River. Later he told us about some lake that formed from a crater. Each time he pointed things out, he would tell us a little something about it. It was wonderful.
The plane was still old. The seats were still shabby. The food was still bland, but the experience was really enjoyable. He transformed the experience of taking the bus, which is what air travel has become today, into a tour across the country.
I know it’s not an Alaska Airlines “thing,” it was just one chatty captain. But I hope airlines see the value of creating an experience and adopt this and other ways to enhance the time we spend on the plane.
It's not just airlines that can learn from this, it's anyone who serves someone they would call a customer or a client. What matters more than all the stuff we throw at our customers is the journey we take them on to get that stuff.
We expect a coffee shop to sell us coffee, for example. We take them from A to B, but it’s what happens on the way from A to B that matters more to creating loyalty. We can get product B from any number of companies – but it's the journey that different companies take you on that makes the difference. You come into the coffee shop only wanting coffee, just like I took the flight just to get to where I needed to go. But how the employee (and hopefully the company), decided to get me there made me want more. The best part is, I completely ignored the shabby seats and old plane after that.
Take people on a memorable journey, and they won't notice the mistakes you make or the things you get wrong. Ignore the journey and all they will notice is the mistakes you make and the things you get wrong.