Published on: January 8, 2013by Michael Sansolo
Although I’ve been fortunate to have many wonderful moments in my life, it’s possible I just had one of the best. And strangely enough it came courtesy of a company I love to hate.
Longtime readers of this column know I have a love-hate relationship with United Airlines. Because it is the primary carrier in my home market, United flies me often and frequently with issues. I’ve complained about delays, cancelled flights, lost luggage and even the company’s president making appearance on pre-flight videos that I consider pointless.
I take it all back. United Airlines, I love you!
Why the change? It’s all about something called TSA Pre-Screening Pre, which may well be the best thing since sliced bread. Essentially, it allows heavy and heavily screened travelers to move through expedited security. Having just topped one million miles on United, I suddenly and unexpectedly qualified for this benefit and celebrated by hugging multiple TSA agents.
In truth, I should have known about this service for two reasons. First, it’s actually not all that new and is offered by many other airlines at specific airports. In fact, Kevin earned this benefit a few months ago and raved about it endlessly. (Of course, I didn’t pay attention.)
But here’s the business lesson. This was quite possibly the best frequent flyer benefit United has ever provided me. It greatly improved my travel experience and got me talking in high praise to business colleagues and, obviously, to you here on MNB. In so many ways this single benefit elevates my relationship with United and ensures my loyalty.
So here’s the question: why didn’t United tell me and, likely, the many other frequent flyers who now qualify, all about this? Surely they had a strong sense from their countless surveys that the security process is an endless hassle and headache. Surely they knew the glee that would come with this benefit.
So tell us.
But they didn’t or they did it so subtly that I never noticed. And I don’t think that’s an uncommon problem.
I’ve had the good fortune of working with many companies who are nothing short of corporate heroes. No matter what the company size, I consistently find the food industry at the forefront of all manner of charitable events. From the smallest efforts such as posting signs or providing space for PTA and scouting fund raisers to rushing in needed ice and water to devastated areas—the food industry is always there. And too often, no one talks about it.
Admittedly there is a fine line between talking too much and too little, especially in the current era of social media and spam. Companies need to set clear disciplines that ensure messages have merit and don’t get drowned in a sea of chatter. If not your customers will tune you out and getting them back will be near impossible.
At the same time, the line between humility and bragging is a line companies need to actively find. It’s so easy today for advocacy groups to find causes to rally anger against companies that it’s more important than ever to remind your customers and community that you do care.
Because when you delight them—and you do—it’s good to remind them why their loyalty matters.
Just ask me, the guy with the big grin at TSA.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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