Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 07/10/17

I’m on a Delta flight from Boston to Atlanta a few years ago, and the first class service is even better than usual. And, I notice the guy across the aisle is getting even better service than I am! And there are three flight attendants in first class, with 12 seats. So I ask one of them, “Is that a Delta executive?” It turns out he’s the CEO. Then I’m told he’s spending the week on the planes taking various routes to evaluate the service!

I said, “You know he’s here, he’s in first class, you’re treating him like royalty, and he’s evaluating the service?!” I leaned over, introduced myself, gave him some feedback about the airline, and suggested he fly coach and not announce his plans if he really wanted to learn something. I once found a car behind the first class car on Amtrak, which never happens. When I inquired, I was told the CEO of Amtrak wanted to learn about the service, so his private car was attached to the train! I stopped him in the aisle to chat, and he invited me to his private car.

If executives want to learn about their business, they should shop it incognito or through third parties. Instead, we have these dreadful surveys and “this call may be recorded for quality purposes”—right. Stop asking people what they experienced and start experiencing it yourself—but the way they do. I told a CEO once that he was unreachable by customers. He vehemently denied it. I took him into a conference room, found an outside line, and told him to contact himself. He couldn’t. My retainer was extended.

Always keep in mind the old retail adage: Customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price. — Lauren Freedman

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