Transperia Group, Inc.
Transformational Experiences That Drive Business Results

Posts Tagged ‘Respect’

The Friendly Skies…Really?

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Flight AttendantI was recently on an airplane.  As we were readying for departure, the Captain came on the loud speaker and said,

“Ladies & Gentlemen, I just wanted to make you aware that our flight attendant, Amy, has recently been nominated for Regional Jet Flight Attendant of the Year.  Let’s all give her a big hand,” which we did.

My first thought was, “Really? This girl?”  From what I had already observed, Amy didn’t appear to be the model of a great Flight Attendant.  I hardly saw a smile, she stumbled over the announcements and she coolly ignored the questions & requests of the young man seated behind me with Down Syndrome, all the while chatting it up with some other Flight Attendants (who were catching a ride on our flight—flying for free, by the way).

Then Amy delivered the safety instructions.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen less energy or passion delivered during this standard speech (and I’ve been on my share of airplanes).  While pedestrian, at best, these instructions are still supposed to be the instructions on how to save our lives in the case of emergency.  You would have thought Amy was reading the phone book.

“How could this woman be nominated for an award?”  I thought.  A few moments later, I got my answer.  I overheard a fellow traveler congratulate Amy, who then scoffed and replied that the pilot was simply joking and having a little bit of fun.

The airlines are getting some tough press lately (and rightly so, in my opinion) because of several things:
•    Escalating ticket prices
•    Eliminating snacks
•    Fuel surcharges
•    Charging for baggage
•    And now some are even charging for soft drinks

Each of these cost-cutting measures is driving down the experience the airlines are providing.

But the airlines can greatly improve their customers’ experience at little to no additional cost—and it lies in the hands of their Flight Attendants.  It costs nothing to:

•    Smile
•    Treat people with respect
•    Be passionate about your job, and the service you provide
•    Be friendly
•    Act like you actually want to be there

I’m sure it’s tough to give that same safety speech day after day.  It reminds me of some years back when I used to be involved in theatre (yes, I did a little acting in college—don’t judge me).  The Director would inevitably give a speech to the cast somewhere in the middle of our show’s run and say, “Now, I know we’ve done this show lots of times, but there is a whole new crowd tonight who is seeing this for the first time.  They don’t care how good we were last night.  What matters to them is tonight.”

It’s easy to forget these simple things that can go a long way.  I think the airlines would do well to remind their Flight Attendants of this.  Maybe next time they’ll find a way to deliver that safety speech with a little zest, interest, or dare I say, even humor.  The power to create a good experience lies firmly within their grasp—if they will only seize it.

What can you learn from the airlines?  What are you doing to improve the experience you provide for your customers?  What can you be doing that doesn’t even cost money to accomplish?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Potbelly Steps Up!

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Potbelly Sign

I have a new “Hero-CEO”. Bryant Keil, CEO of Potbelly Sandwich Works, has gone above and beyond in responding to my pickle saga (you can read my original post here). I thought it was only fair to tell the rest of the story.

A few days after I sent off my original letter to Mr. Keil, I received a personal voice mail from him telling me he’d received my letter. He apologized for the situation and asked if I’d call him back. He then left his direct number.

I called the next day and Mr. Keil immediately took my call and again apologized for the “pickle incident”. He said he appreciated that my letter was very constructive. He told me they work very hard to create the best experience for their customers, but because they are growing so fast, it’s sometimes hard to pass the culture along to everyone. I told him I completely understood.

He added that, like me, when he orders a pickle, he never gets it sliced.

He thanked me again for my letter and said, “It was important to me that I give you a call. This is what it’s all about.”

I was shocked and amazed. To think the CEO of a large company would take the time to make a personal phone call to a disappointed customer was simply mind-boggling to me. His kind gesture showed such great respect and more than made up for the original issue.

But that’s not all.

The next day I received a call from the General Manager of the Algonquin Potbelly store. She apologized for the situation and asked if she could bring dinner to my home for my entire family (unbelievable!). I thanked her, but said that wouldn’t be necessary. She then asked if I could describe the Manager who treated me disrespectfully. I mentioned that I didn’t really want to get anyone in trouble, but she assured me that she simply wanted to reinforce Potbelly’s excellent standards on the importance of the customer’s experience.

I thanked the Manager for her kind phone call and assured her that I would be back in their store some time soon.

But the story doesn’t even end there.

A few days later I received another call from the Potbelly District Manager. He apologized for the experience I had in the store and wanted to double check to make sure the store Manager had taken care of me. He also said that they had “addressed the issue internally”. I assured him that everyone had gone above and beyond to follow up with me and told him I would certainly be back in his store.

Again, amazing.

Culture starts at the top. It doesn’t always trickle all the way down, but a strong CEO knows the importance of carrying the culture and follows through to make sure everyone understands it and is owning it. That’s exactly what Bryant Keil did. He made sure (in multiple redundancies) that the Potbelly culture was carried out in my situation. That’s the sign of a great, “Hero-CEO”.

Pickles, Potbellies & Respect

Friday, August 8th, 2008

All I wanted was a pickle.


What I got was a lesson on one of the foundational elements that makes a great experience…or not.

For those living in the mid-west, you likely know about the joy that is Potbelly Sandwich Works—a fast-growing chain of over 200 restaurants that serves really, really good sandwiches. I love Potbelly, but not too long ago I had a disappointing experience there when I ordered, of all things, a pickle, with my meal.

Now, the reality is that it really wasn’t about the pickle, but rather the disrespectful way I was treated in the process of ordering it.

I was so disappointed that I wrote a letter to Potbelly’s CEO, Bryant Keil, to make him aware of my disappointment. Rather than tell the entire story in this post, you can read my letter here. It tells the whole story (and I think it was a pretty good letter, if I do say so myself).

As I mention in my letter, respect is one of those key elements that lay the critical foundation for a good experience. Without it, it doesn’t matter how good your product, conference, environment, church service, business meeting (or whatever) is. All bets are off.

Can I get a little “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”?

[UPDATE: To read Potbelly’s response, click here.]