Of all our holidays in the U.S., I’d have to say that Thanksgiving is my favorite. Yes, it’s a time for family and friends to gather, share stories, and create new memories together. But it is also a time for reflection—something we don’t indulge in nearly enough thanks to our fast-paced, smartphoned, 140 character world.
After a busy year of business travel, I’ve been reflecting on what I’m thankful for as a frequent traveler. As I scratched out my list, I was struck by a common element that runs through all five things I’m thankful for—see if you can spot it.
1. The Sensible Customer Service Agent
Frequent travel also means frequent changes. Flights need to be rebooked, hotel nights canceled, and itineraries reconfigured. I’m thankful for the customer service agents who understand such stressful situations and work to find solutions rather than read canned scripts. That is the definition of great customer service.
2. The Attentive TSA Agent
No one likes airport security. Not flyers, not pilots, and not even the TSA agents themselves. While gallons of ink have been spilled writing about TSA’s missteps, I’d like to thank those agents who are actively engaged while on duty and don’t check their humanity at the door. Instead of mindlessly yelling at everyone about liquids, laptops, and shoes, these agents look for travelers who may need extra assistance and help them comply with the rules in a way that is both kind and efficient. This makes things move more smoothly for everyone and reduces the stress of security lines for all.
3. The Early Check-In
You want something that will bolster your hotel brand in the eyes of consumers without adding one ounce of cost? Look no further than the early check-in. As someone who often arrives at my hotel in the dead zone between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., there’s nothing that makes me happier than a well-coordinated cleaning staff and accommodating front desk. My thanks go out to anyone who makes the early check-in a reality so that I can freshen up for the afternoon and evening business ahead.
4. The Observant Hotel Staffer
Waiting is a big part of travel. Waiting in lines, waiting for colleagues, waiting for a car—the list goes on and on. I’m thankful for the hotel staffers who not only try to expedite the waiting process but also use it as a chance to assist you. Their simple line of questioning—“Where are you headed?,” “Do you need transportation?,” etc., have often saved me time and headaches. Most recently in London, such questions from the concierge helped me avoid going to a market that was closed. It’s never easy to start a conversation with strangers, but I’m thankful for the observant hotel staffers who do and, in the process, make my travel experience far more enjoyable.
5. The Safe Trip Home
There’s no better feeling for me than returning home safely to be greeted by my wife, kids, and our overzealous dog. Too often, the slog of frequent flying clouds my thankfulness for the miracle that has just occurred. Somehow, someway, a flight crew got me there and back safely in a 400-ton flying machine. This happens so nonchalantly each day that we forget how amazing a feat that actually is. So, on behalf of my family, I thank all the flight crews who put up with cramped quarters and irritable passengers to deliver me and my fellow travelers safely home after each and every trip.
The common element that runs through each of my thankful moments is really quite simple—it’s the human element. When airport, airline, hotel, and other travel staff treat myself and other travelers like fellow human beings instead of heads of cattle to be herded from destination to destination, good things—memorable things—happen.
The lesson for marketers is that you can have the best advertising campaign in the world and a loyalty program second to none, but if your people on the front lines fail to create “thankful” moments, your brand will soon lose share to those that do. So this Thanksgiving, take stock of the “thankful” moments your employees create and those that they could with a bit more training, encouragement or empowerment. We frequent travelers would like nothing more than to say “thanks” on the road a lot more in 2012.