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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

We know you have to follow a script, and we do not appreciate your apathetic delivery

Most airlines seem to spend much of their innovation effort actively undifferentiating their service, me-tooing every good idea anyone in the industry has. (Most of which – over the last 20 years at least – have originated from Southwest)

Today’s example: It seems everyone has co-opted a version of the phrase, “We know you have a choice of airlines when you fly, and we want to thank you for flying with (us).”

It was novel when we first heard it, but in replication, the effect has worn off.

The phrase itself has become a negative, partly because the deliveries are almost undistinguishable, and partly because we can associate poor air travel service experiences with the lifeless delivery of this now-hackneyed line.

If you’re going to thank customers for being with you, it HAS to be heartfelt, and it should feel different from everyone else who does it.

On some Southwest flights, flight attendants sing their appreciation. Sometimes good, sometimes awful, it at least shows that they feel strongly enough to not do it by rote.

Thank you doesn’t have to be said at the end of the flight. Midwest makes cookies as their calling card. They could say during the inflight service, “We like you so much, we baked you cookies”. Different, but the message gets across.

Airlines could visibly reward passengers randomly. “We love all of you, but we’re going to buy everybody in row 12 a beer today for flying with us.”

The execution of the message is almost irrelevant – the point is that an insincere “thank you” is as damaging in a service environment as it is in our personal lives.

Lose the line, lose the script. It doesn’t have to be creative, it just has to be heartfelt.

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