Last week’s United Airlines debacle caught international attention for a simple reason. The airline forgot that they were dealing with a paying customer—and it could easily have been any of us. Yes, perhaps the customer was being overly stubborn about his circumstances, but something happens when we enter the air travel zone. Perhaps it’s how we’re welcomed at the airport—long lines, security check-ins and the TSA presence. Or maybe it’s that we’re all intent on reaching our destination on our timeline, so any unplanned delay becomes a crisis. And of course, airports are teeming with crowds and we all know that crowds contribute to stress in any circumstance. Together, these variables foster an undercurrent of irrational tension.
I couldn’t help but think of this when I checked into my Sheraton Hotel in Minnesota last night and noticed a small red carpet in the entryway. Having just been at the same property a few weeks ago, I questioned the look but thought they were maybe just getting creative for spring. But then placed by the television I noticed a tray of snacks—which I had not ordered—and a printed card stating that I was their VIP customer of the day. This was clearly a random welcome experience that probably cost the hotel less than $5, but boy, did it make me feel great about my stay. Through this very simple gesture, they reinforced that they understood that the customer comes first. Winning my loyalty by providing a memorable experience matters to them—and that is a powerful message.
I called the front desk to thank them for the surprise welcome, and they were happy to reinforce the card’s message. We care about your business and are glad that you’re here. Hmm….seems pretty simple. United – are you listening?