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You need to sweat the little things

July 20, 2012

I’ve been doing a lot of flying lately. Nothing exotic. Just the bus trip in the air between business meetings and presentations. And it is like getting a bus isn’t it? Back in the old days it was exciting and just a bit glamorous – I use to even like the dinky little trays of food, and being waited on, or offered a little rug to put on my knees, even when in cattle class. It was really quite a special experience even though there were no TV screens or background music or airline magazines or headsets.

Now we are all flying all of the time; following the rules, obeying the signs, holding our boarding passes the right way, jamming our overweight bags into the overhead bin ourselves and the experience – regardless of what airline you are flying with is…identical.

Unless you are right down the pointy end of one of the very exclusive airlines brands, with a few million frequent flyer miles - it can be really difficult to identify who you are flying with just based on the experience.

And when it is all just the same, you can’t help but notice the little things…Familiarty breeds higher expectations.

I know that I should consider it remarkable that they have got me safely to my destination but as with any product or service, it is about the experience and the experience is....very ordinary.

The other night, all sleepy and grumpy and cramped and uncomfortable at the end of a long day I didn’t focus upon the airline doing the one big remarkable thing that I had paid and trusted them to do (get us all back down onto the ground again safely). All I could notice was that they while they wanted me to buy stuff from the trolley – and promoted it repeatedly on the back of the seat in front of me, via our friendly ‘Cabin Supervisor’ and in the seat pocket by way of promotional menus with attitudes - they then announced, over the PA, that passengers needed to ensure that "you have the right change"!

Hey - Not a problem – I’ll just nick out now and change my $10 note at that handy teller machine on the wing…

What? So, now it is my job, just before the flight to:

Take off my jewelry, Empty my laptop bag, Throw my keys/phone/change into a tray , Open up my handbag to demonstrate my lack of aerosols (Keep in mind that I am carting all this stuff through the airport like a pack horse because I don’t have another hour to spend after a one hour flight to wait for them to get my bag to the carousel). Take off my shoes, Remember to take the glasses of my head, Balance on one toe whilst packing my bags, restoring my jewelry and glasses, trying to get my shoes back on and not fall over (Aside to airport management: Chairs…low things, usually four legs, people get to sit on them…you may have seem them around), Be scanned for explosives, Answer questions about how often I fly, Asked to give my permission and consent to open up all my bags again so that they can stick a probe in them…

And then…Decide before I board exactly what I will feel like eating and drinking, calculate the total, and ensure that I have exactly the right change to give the staff on the flight who SURELY KNEW THAT THEY WOULD NEED CHANGE AT SOME POINT!

So, keeping in mind that the airlines (most of them anyway) are absolutely nailing the big picture – how about nailing the little things?

If you want me to buy a cheap ticket, and then up-sell me - as a member of your very captive audience – to improve the general profit
per head ratio – then you get to take care of the change.

Whether it is airlines or phones or banks – any of the big guys targeting big markets – there is little difference in the big things that they do – due to their sheer size they have to automate and cookie cutter the systems and process. Which is why the really little things, the people thing, the soft things, make such a difference.

What are the really little things that your customers notice? What are the little things that they care about? What are the small things that as a small business you can easily do? The little things that remove any barriers to their doing business with you - and the things so small that big business doesn't get it or are just to big and cumbersome to work out how to get into their system.

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