I am normally quite vocal about negative customer experiences. However, a delightful experience last week with SAA, compels me to acknowledge this exceptional experience I had as a customer with the airline crew!
I am actually surprised by my fond memory of this flight from Windhoek to Johannesburg (SA77)! Flights are at best of times mostly functional (except of course, when it is a disaster). However, in the midst of the uncertainty most SAA flight crew staff must feel, this crew had something that impressed me. They had a tangible, visible passion, they engaged with the passengers, they showed respect and one had the feeling they truly wanted to serve… and enjoyed it. Our needs were really their priority. Everything was done with a smile, light conversations were struck with passengers, a few jokes were shared, and all in all, it was just a great people experience.
This stood out for me as a customer experience professional, because I expected the opposite. One assumes that employees working for organisations, where “Rome is burning”, will experience high levels of stress and uncertainty, which typically translates into disengaged behaviour. People generally respond to uncertainty with typical flight, fight or freeze behaviour. These responses are adopted to armour and protect oneself. On top of that, it is reported that globally only 15% of employees are engaged, so my expectations are set at a fairly low base. I totally expected a disengaged team and was therefore even more overwhelmed by the opposite delightful interaction.
Only 15% of the world’s workers are engaged and reaching their full potential at work.
I must also confess that I had little faith that we would even be able to fly back to Johannesburg with SAA, expecting a cancellation or delay (even packed another set of clothes for in case), but the series of little “surprises” in my end-to-end journey, added to an amazing emotional memory.
We so often talk about the magical moments in customers’ journey with a brand. One of the elements that catapulted the experience, was the obvious low base of expectations. Yet, despite this, the experience was even more delightful, because each individual of the crew was exceptionally HUMAN. And yes, the skills to engage with customers on this level can be learned, but when it comes from the heart, and the employees act from their authentic self, in spite of their uncertain work context, and they still CONNECT with customers as people… it is a recipe for success… and great experiences.
The Consumer Psychology Lab is a boutique customer experience consultancy with the dream of creating magical experiences for consumers. To achieve that, we support our clients to adopt a more outside-in approach to their customer interaction. Equally important, we support our clients to empower their employees with skills that enable them to deliver their desired experiences.