Have you ever wondered why airports have so many bars? I haven’t. Being in an airport makes people want to imbibe.
Apart from all the stressed-out, exhausted people propelling themselves and their luggage toward gates and between terminals, there are the much-less-than-enthusiastic airline employees who consider it an inconvenience if you ask them a gate location. Upping the ante are airport restaurant staffers who take their sweet time waiting on you, although it’s the rare customer who wants to linger over a meal. Salud!
If you’ve been to Changi Airport in Singapore, you may get drunk on what New York Times best-selling author Ron Kaufman calls “uplifting service.” You see, Changi is a little different (OK, a lot different) from other airports. As Kaufman describes in his book Uplifting Service: The Proven Path to Delighting Your Customers, Colleagues, and Everyone Else You Meet, Changi Airport pampers travelers with napping rooms, spa treatments, butterfly gardens, playgrounds and, best of all, a united ethos of airport service that means even the guy at the espresso bar can tell you what time your flight leaves.
Kaufman evaluates companies ranging from Singapore Airlines to Zappos and tells why their service achievements are so vital to them and to mom-and-pop businesses. “To differentiate yourself as a small business, you need to create a service experience,” he says. “Uplifting service will give you a sustainable competitive advantage.”
Set Lofty Goals
Ron Kaufman says that simply meeting customer expectations is an out-of-date goal. “What you want to do instead is ask what else you can do to create more value for your customers,” he says. Here’s how:
1 . Create an experience. Changi Airport is an excellent example. It creates an environment that promotes peace, care and helpfulness—and a wonderful first impression of Singapore. (In fact, Kaufman says the airport made a commitment to become “the face of the nation.”)
2 . Give your employees a big-picture view of the company. Customers return because of what a company’s service people do. They should do great work, of course, but also should know more about the business than their sliver of it. For example, if the person answering the phone at your restaurant takes a dinner reservation, make sure he or she also can answer a customer’s question about the soup of the day.
3 . Lead from everywhere. Leading is not just for CEOs and managers. Everyone sets an example for co-workers. “Just coming into work with a good attitude and spreading it around can make a huge difference,” Kaufman says. Encourage employees to lead with great service, which will inspire others in the organization as well as please customers.
4 . Don’t assume; ask. Create a partnership with customers. Kaufman says to create excellence by proactively seeking ways to add value. “Instead of just asking, ‘How did I do?’ ask, ‘How can I do more?’ ” Your goal is to make each customer think, “Wow, you really care about me.”
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Because, as Mark Twain said, there’s no such thing as a new idea.