Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ordinary isn't extraordinary

Yesterday evening, after a crowded but uneventful flight from Nashville to Newark, I grabbed my bag, got on the bus that took me from terminal A to terminal C and then hoofed it a few hundred feet to a very crowded gate 92.

No problem and nothing out of the ordinary.

Our plane was on time so I hung around the gate and waited for the boarding call which came just as expected. Since I was in zone 5, the last to board, I sat and waited while they pre-boarded, got all the first-class passengers settled in and started general boarding.

Our 737 was packed and fortunately I had been able to change from a middle seat to an aisle, but by the time they called my group, we were informed all the overheads were full and we'd have to check our bags. A hassle for sure, but not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. When I finally got on the flight I dropped into my seat to settle in for what promised to be an on-time departure.

All in all it was just a normal day of air travel. Nothing bad happened. Nothing special happened. But due to the crowds, lines, checked bags, bad airport food, etc., it was exhausting.

Then a tiny monitor in the seatback in front of me flickered on and this video began to play.

What was this world they were depicting in this video? Where were these smiling, helpful people?

Now don't get me wrong, no one was unfriendly, a little curt at times perhaps. But nothing about the experience was exceptional. By showing me this video in the midst of an incredibly average and ordinary trip, United made that obvious.

Here's the issue. You can say you're exceptional. You can train your people like crazy. You can put all the incentives in place you want, but unless I experience it, it isn't happening. After being herded onto the plane with 200 other tired, cranky passengers I couldn't have been less receptive of this message.

My guess is that if the people who placed this video were a little more empathetic and understanding of what we'd just been through they wouldn't have shown it right at that moment.

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