My sister is a flight attendant approaching her 30th anniversary and she’s probably going to go upside my head with a canoe paddle for writing this, but I’m gonna do it anyway.
Last week on my various flights around the country I saw three different flight crews on two different airlines. With all that interaction with front-line representatives, the only smiles I saw from were from flight attendants as they greeted me when I boarded their flights.
The one image that sticks in my mind is flying on one airline where the seating configuration allowed me to see from one end of the cabin to the other. From my seat I could see three flight attendants ready to demonstrate the safety features. In the 30 seconds or so before the safety video started, the three of them stood there with the demo seat belts in their hands staring straight ahead like statues. As the video begin airing, they executed their steps with absolutely no facial expression whatsoever.
“Oh puh-leeze,” you’re thinking. “They were probably at the end of a grueling 3-day trip and were tired.
(This is where my sister will probably smack me with the canoe paddle.) Tired as they might have been, exactly how much strength does it take to smile? Athletes play with pain, cops and code warriors work 80-hour weeks, teachers grade papers far into the night. It’s called being a professional. It doesn’t take that much effort to smile.
Southwest Airlines (not one of the two described above) “hires for attitude, trains for skills.” When I need to go to a city serviced by Southwest I choose them because their employees are more fun. Because their employees make me feel like they care about me as a human being. They usually do this with just a smile and eye contact. I’ve also noticed that Southwest flight attendants waiting near the exit rows will usually start a conversation with you as people board. I can’t recall experiencing this with other carriers.
Do you hire employees who can smile even when they’re tired? Can they make eye contact with people they’re assisting and still leave a positive, even memorable impression with customers? Or do your customers share my memory of employees who act robotic?
A smile is such a small thing, yet can such a huge impact on customers.