Recently, I read that the Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) Airport had
been named the best large airport in North America (and #3 in the
world) for customer service quality. As a lifelong Minnesotan, I felt
some pride that our hometown airport did so well in this survey. But I
also saw something I didn’t like with the survey.
It’s missing something.
I have spent more time in airports than I like to think about. I know some
of them almost too well. And their quality of customer experience
varies widely. The quirky little airport in Key West represents one end
of the spectrum. And though our airport here in Minneapolis is a good
airport, it’s still not even close to my favorite. The top US airport
in my book is in Charlotte, NC. On my first visit there I was thrilled. And I’ve never been disappointed since.
So something is missing in the survey I read about. Because the
Charlotte airport wasn’t even mentioned. And it should have been
because I’ve seen the effect it has on people. Every time I’ve been
there I’ve observed people. They sit in the rocking chairs and relax.
They converse. They connect. They enjoy the soothing music coming from
the piano which sits in the center of it all. They have experiences
that you typically do not associate with a major airport. And that’s
because someone at the Charlotte airport decided that’s what they their
customers to experience.
I’m not saying this survey isn’t valid or that it holds no value.
I’m sure it does. But I know, from direct experience, that it missed
something. And I’d bet there are thousands of other travelers who would
agree with me.
The key words in the above sentence are “direct experience”. The
best information you can get about what your customers want from you
(and think of you) is when you get it directly from them. Surveys can
help but they can’t beat direct contact with your customers.
As you look for ways to improve your customer service, start by
asking yourself how you can get direct, open and frequent feedback from
your customers. How can you connect with them on a regular basis in a
way that does not inconvenience them? And make sure both employees and
management are involved in this. This shows customers and staff that
management is serious about getting direct feedback.
Here’s a suggestion to get you started. At your next staff meeting,
ask your people to help. Brainstorm at least 10 different ways you can
reach out and touch your customers in ways that build relationships and
open the channels of communication. Pick three of these ideas and put
them into action. Then keep track of what customers tell you. Keep
finding new ways to engage with your customers and see what happens. I
think you’ll like the result.