Friday, May 27, 2005

T.I.P.S. 101** Rewarding the Right Behavior

Rewarding the Right Behavior
By Gil C. Schmidt

Lest you think I’d forgotten my good friend, Carol, here’s another bit of wisdom from her extensive stockpile:

“I was "Executive Platinum" in the American Airlines frequent flier program—their highest tier. On many flights I watched as those around me received complimentary upgrades and I got... nothing. Not even a "Thanks for flying with us a WHOLE, WHOLE bunch."

One day returning from London, I decided to be the "Ugly American" and see what happened. I went through multiple American Airlines checkpoints as I made my way from one international flight to another. At each, I simply mentioned that I was an Executive Platinum flier and hoped that I could be upgraded that day. The response was always noncommittal.

When I got to the LAST point in the boarding lounge, I got a little more vocal. I watched as they upgraded other passengers, then DEMANDED to know why these people were being upgraded and I wasn't. I had flown over 100,000 miles on their airline that year, yet I had NEVER received EVEN ONE complimentary upgrade, and I wanted to know why. Right then. And I was going to sit there until I got an answer. What a wonder: about 5 minutes later they found room for me in Business Class.

I seethed the whole way home. Why had the airline chosen to ignore my numerous polite requests and only caved when I became more vocal? Was it worth it to become the "Ugly American" in order to get a better seat? For me, it wasn't, and I spent a lot of time on subsequent flights in cramped seats in Economy Class. But I slept better at night.”

Carol continues her example: “British Airways knows how to do it right. I also spent time in the top tier of BA's frequent flier program. On every flight, the purser came by my seat before take-off and noted that I was in their top tier of fliers. He or she always thanked me for flying their airline, and asked that I find them personally if I needed anything during the flight. BA also upgraded me about 25% of the time. I never asked for it. I never begged. I never pitched a fit. They simply handed me a boarding pass for a better seat. I flew them every chance I could.

Customers appreciate acknowledgement. They appreciate being known by name. (I was on a first-name basis with some of BA's flight attendants.) They appreciate being treated as more than just a source of revenue. It's worth it to go the extra mile to develop customer loyalty.”

Back to me now. Notice how American Airlines not only “punished” Carol despite her obvious high value as their customer and “rewarded” her uncharacteristic but understandable anger. It may be true that “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” but customers are not “squeaky wheels,” and if you wait for them to behave as such, you are going to need plenty of “grease.”

British Airways knows the “secret”: Reward your customers so that you always get their best. And if a company doesn’t give you their best and you don’t feel comfortable “misbehaving” to get it, that’s okay. Companies come and go and you can choose to change to a competitor, but as Carol said, you will sleep better at night knowing you are being true to yourself. Some things are simply too important to compromise.


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