There is an old Native American saying; “the wolf you feed is the one that grows”. Simply put, the behaviors we reward are those that are repeated. With that understanding it is critical market leaders intentionally reward customer behaviors they want and make customers pay for those that are not in alignment with your overall flight plan.
I flew back to Ohio last weekend on Delta/ Northwest to work with one of my new clients just outside of Columbus. At one point in my career I flew 3-4 days per week, every week, for just over 15 years so I guess I could wear the “road warrior” title. Back then air travel was not perfect, but it was at least predictable. I felt like the airlines and their employees valued my patronage.
On this trip I was greeted at check-in with a $20 fee to check my bag. Although I was aware Delta still charged a fee, it was an interruption for me as most of my flights this year have been with Southwest Airlines who does not charge for a checked bag. When I fly Southwest I feel valued, and the attendants and all their employees make me feel like a valued customer. When I flew Delta / Northwest this week I felt like a number, and I felt like I was being nickel and dimed.
So we board the flight and I noticed the amount of carryon baggage other people were trying to fit in overheads and under their seats. When I used to travel on British Airlines in Europe I was conditioned to check my bags and have a small carry on. As I watched people with panicked looks trying to stow their bags it dawned on me; the customers are responding to the charge for checked bags. Not only did we miss our departure time and take a considerable amount of time to board because some of the passengers bags had to be checked after all, but when we landed it also took a great deal of time to get off the plane. I noticed how slow things seemed to be moving so I timed how long from when the cabin door opened it would take for me, in row 23 to get off the plane. It took 13 minutes for me to walk through the cabin door.
Contrast the above experience with my flights on Southwest. People still have carryon bags but not nearly the amount I experienced on Delta / Northwest. Southwest is one of the most profitable airlines and interestingly they do not nickel and dime their customers. From what I understand one of the reasons Southwest is more profitable is their fast turnaround time at the gate.
As I walked to my connecting flight I thought about what I just experienced and was reminded how we teach our customers how to behave by the rules and rewards we offer them.
The key is market leaders understand to intentionally reward those behaviors that are in alignment with their team’s overall vision and flight plan for their business.
Market losers like Delta/ Northwest charge their clients because they can and not because they should with little regard for the overall big picture of profitability driven by turnaround at the gate due to quick boarding and unloading of passengers.
What about your organization….
What behaviors are you rewarding?
Are those behaviors in alignment with your overall vision and flight plan for your business?
What wolf are you feeding? And is that the wolf you really want to grow?
Do you have other examples of corporate led initiatives that feel like tripping over dollars to pick up pennies? If so please share…
For those in leadership positions at Delta / Northwest you have an opportunity to be seen as a market leading partner by your customers, or a market loser…it truly is your choice. You must focus on the flight plan you have developed to drive shareholder value and I hope overall customer experience is high on your intentional initiatives.