Consider this: At the exact moment when airlines want you to pay attention, 95 percent of customers are doing anything but that. Safety demonstrations are not the most exciting or eye-catching displays; if you look around the cabin when emergency instructions are being explained, almost everyone is busy doing other things or looking elsewhere. But not on my Air New Zealand flight to England from Los Angeles! Every single passenger was watching the screen. This wasn't the only difference between that flight and others I've taken. Many things made me take note and appreciate the innovative approaches that Air New Zealand has adopted. Here are some that every leader can learn from:
1. Catch your customers' attention.
Air New Zealand achieved this by enlisting championship surfers to give the flight safety instructions while they surfed along a beautiful beach. No surprise that they captured full attention throughout the cabin. Any company's communication to customers and employees can be tedious and predicable--how are you trying innovative new ways to surprise and delight?
2. Make the bland exciting.
Why has nobody decorated the drab and dreary airplane bathrooms before? Air New Zealand's bathrooms have chandeliers, bookcases, and amusing window displays at the marginal cost of a few decal stickers. Walk a mile in your customers' shoes--where do they spend their time and how can you make it more entertaining and exciting?
3. Make sure your customers are sitting comfortably.
Airline seats are notoriously uncomfortable, so Air New Zealand provides its premium economy passengers with small beanbags to rest their feet. Likely more economical than full foot rests, it provides comfort at a reasonable cost. Are your customers comfortable?
4. Experiment with new designs.
There was much negative reaction to some airlines' new hexagon style of seating designed to increase the number of passengers per square inch in each plane. Air New Zealand is going in the opposite direction with their space seats in premium economy that point away from each other for additional privacy and space. Are you throwing out the conventional and experimenting with new designs?
5. Have real conversations.
Tick sheets and click boxes rarely compel anyone to complete a survey. And knowing your customers were 3.75 out of 5 satisfied with you does little to deliver specific areas of praise or opportunities for improvement. At the end of my Air New Zealand flight an attendant came and sat by me with a blank notebook and pen to ask how my flight was and what kind of service Vera, my flight attendant, provided. We had a real conversation about the wonderful service, I told specific real stories. She told me that they shared the specific feedback with the cabin crew as soon as they landed because it motivated the team to hear immediate stories of their impact on the passengers. Are you having conversations with your customers and sharing their feedback with your employees--fast?
6. Match need and investment.
For the flight back to Los Angeles I was given the opportunity to bid online for an upgrade to business class for myself and my seven-year-old daughter. I bid a few hundred dollars and was told my bid was unlikely to result in an upgrade. To my delight, a few days before my return journey I was told my bid was accepted. I loved this eBay approach to bidding what you are prepared to invest. Air New Zealand gets to maximize revenue opportunities and passengers get to decide how they want to enhance their journey. Are you providing your customers with innovative ways they can invest more money with you?
My first flight on Air New Zealand turned me into a big fan. I have also heard of American Airlines new first class cabin for pets and Etihad's in-flight nanny service offering face painting and puppet shows.
How can you take advantage of these lessons to provide your customers with a memorable experience that converts them into true fans?