MaryAnn could teach everyone a thing or two about marketing. On US Airways Flight 1972 from Dallas to Charlotte on Sunday, May 19th, I received an upgraded seat and MaryAnn was my flight attendant. First, she brought me a perfect cup of coffee while other passengers were still boarding the plane. She got points for the perfect cup of coffee. No one makes me a better cup of coffee than my husband, Eddie.
After takeoff, and as soon as it was safe, MaryAnn delivered another perfectly made cup of coffee, assuming I would want one instead of waiting for me to ask. More points. I hate always having to ask. "I loved it before. Do you think I'd love it again?" MaryAnn just knew I would, and she was right.
Did I mention the ice cube? With my first cup of coffee, I asked for a single cube of ice to cool the hot coffee so I could enjoy the entire cup before takeoff. I casually said, "I like it hot, but not too hot." When MaryAnn delivered the second, unsolicited cup of coffee, she smiled, made eye contact, and said, "One ice cube!" I responded, "Perfect!"
Her next impressive, "abnormal" behavior was the immediate delivery of our first snack. I haven't seen food on an airplane in thirteen years. Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit--BUT--never early in the flight, unless carried on by another passenger! More points for MaryAnn! I should clarify. Snacks are offered in first class most of the time. Dependent on the mealtime scheduling of your flight and the duration of your flight, you might get a meal in first class and there's "food for purchase" in coach. I find it random and unpredictable, so it's better to bring your own food if you're hungry.
MaryAnn's expression was one of delight as she turned after serving another passenger and said, "Fresh coffee!" before I could even ask for another cup. I don't get this lady. I was going to ask for another cup of coffee, but she served me first. I could not catch MaryAnn not serving. I know I used a double negative in that sentence. In this instance it's a positive--more points for MaryAnn.
The other flight attendants on the flight were spending their time trying to get passengers to go for the "free miles" via the "limited time offer" that includes 40,000 bonus miles, "if you complete an application while the offer still lasts." It's an application for a credit card, and if you complete it while still on board, you get "an extra 500 bonus miles" and the flight attendant can get $50 for turning it in. Oh, they didn't say that last part. They think we don't know.
MaryAnn walked by to collect trash in the coach section. MaryAnn was marketing, but I bet she thought she was serving. The other flight attendants were still selling "the limited time offer." With such a limited time on the flight, they are forced to choose between serving and selling. Points again, for MaryAnn who chose to serve! As the customer, I want to be served first! If the server does a great job serving, I will be more likely to buy.
Please don't misinterpret my use of the words--marketing, selling and serving. Here's what I think they mean. Marketing is a behavior or action that moves someone to buy your product or service. Marketing is amazingly effective when done as a function of someone's character that includes a service component. The old expression that actions speak louder than words, applies here. Are you selling me or serving me as you market to me? Serving is a great first step in effective marketing. If your customer sees that you are there to serve them--first--they might stay and buy. Selling is a deliberate, self-serving activity used in order to get something for ones self. I admire great salesmen and sales women. I love to watch them sell as I try to figure out their strategy. Serving is something that you do for others without expecting anything in return. I might listen to your sales pitch if I like the way you served me. I'm loyal to great salesmen and sales women who have taken care of me, first, earned my trust, first, and made me like them, first. Great service creates more customer loyalty.
I noticed when MaryAnn brought the basket of snacks around for the second time that the snacks had been rearranged, not just refilled. Since I fly often, and have occasionally been offered snacks displayed in a large rectangular basket, I know exactly where my favorite snacks reside. They were previously arranged by catering and then covered with plastic wrap to hold the items in place. MaryAnn was up to something. You may be wondering, "Who cares about where they put the chips in the basket. Just let me have some!" MaryAnn was making her service interesting. I might "buy" something different this time that I didn't even notice before. A third arrangement of the basket of snacks arrived! I took a photo with my iPhone this time. This is sheer brilliance. I couldn't believe it! Why does she do this? It's just a basket of snacks! Or is it a new experience for the buyer--a unique presentation that makes the buyer think and potentially buy this time? Change it up to enhance the buying process.
Another flight attendant came up front to get a trash bag. She must have seen me pull out my "Above and Beyond Certificates" (given to me by the airlines to recognize any airline employee who provides an "above and beyond" experience for travelers. Unfortunately, we are on approach into Charlotte, just 20 minutes out, and she has a limited time to serve. She's been busy selling.
I filled out three different "Above and Beyond Certificates"--all for MaryAnn, highlighting three different things she did to exceed my expectations during the three-hour flight. After landing and arriving at our gate, I approached the exit with the three certificates in my hand for MaryAnn. The passenger walking in front of me also handed MaryAnn a certificate, while another flight attendant looked on. The other flight attendants did their job, while MaryAnn did more than her job! She WOWed us with her brilliant service, which we appreciated and recognized! I look forward to another flight--hopefully with MaryAnn! I'm sold!