I'm a pretty regular traveler. I've traveled a few times a month for work for years, often to New York or San Francisco. When it comes to airports and airplanes and getting around a city, I generally know what to expect. Well, I used to.
Of course, like everyone else, I've spent most of the past few months at home. Thankfully, I've been working remotely for years, which means that I'm pretty fortunate that a lot of what I do can be done from almost anywhere.
This week, however, I needed to be in New York City. You know, the city that had, at one time, been the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic here in the United States. That meant getting on an airplane. I have to admit, for once, I had no idea what to expect.
I had already written about the state of air travel (side note: it's not good), which meant I was at least familiar with steps airlines have taken to try and keep passengers and crew safe. I mostly fly Delta, which has made a point of continuing to block off middle seats, requiring masks, as well as flying at a greatly reduced capacity.
On the mask thing, Delta doesn't mess around. If you don't wear one, you don't get on. I'm sure there are people who decide not to wear a mask on a plane as some form of protest, but in this case, no one made a fuss. No one complained. No one was surprised.
As a matter of fact, that's probably the most important aspect--everyone knew what to expect.
That's largely because Delta goes out of its way to make sure customers know exactly what its policies are, and to reassure travelers that it has their best interests in mind. The airline is upfront in explaining how the in-flight experience might be different than what a flyer might have experienced in the past, and addresses how it is handling safety.
Then, it delivers exactly that experience.
Then, when you check-in for your flight, Delta requires that you confirm that you don't currently have any Covid-19 symptoms and that you haven't tested positive in the last 14 days. You also have to acknowledge that you will wear a mask "throughout the airport, in Delta Sky Clubs, and onboard the aircraft."
You can't even get your boarding pass without agreeing to those three conditions. Of course, we all know that simply requiring people to check a box doesn't mean they actually read what they are agreeing to.
In the case of Delta, I received no less than four emails and a handful of text messages to be sure I was prepared for my trip. Some of the changes require more time, so the airline wanted to be sure I adjusted my schedule. The main reason, however, is that Delta wanted to be sure I knew what steps it was taking to ensure everyone's safety and to be sure I knew what was expected of me.
That's the secret sauce: Delta, as well as anyone, has gone out of its way to create, and more importantly, live up to its customer's expectations. That's a powerful testament to any business, but especially an airline.
Here's the lesson: Right now, it's a pretty rough time to be in business--any type of business. That's also true for all of your customers, who are struggling with uncertainty in almost every area of their lives. This means that the best thing you can do for them is to help them know exactly what they can expect from you.
Uncertainty is one of the greatest drivers of fear. Not knowing what might happen, or whether it's safe to go out into the world or to enter your store. The good news is that you can remove most of that uncertainty, and with it fear, by simply creating expectations for your customers and explaining them clearly and often.
By the way, I expected to be anxious about traveling, even though it's something I've done hundreds of times. There was just too much uncertainty about staying safe to not be at least a little concerned. This week, however, I wasn't. I wasn't concerned for my safety, and that's because of how Delta created, and then lived up to my expectations.