The most rewarding feeling an employee can experience is when they are given the latitude and freedom by their employers to explore new methods to improve the way they do their job, especially when those ideas are actualized and proven to be effective to bring about an exceptional customer experience.

paula jb copy

Paula Minniti, GM at jetBlue LAX
Breaking Down The Counter Barrier

At jetBlue, a company synonymous with 5-star customer care for air travelers, this is one of the pillars of their corporate culture. They recognize that those staff members on the front lines with their customers are in the best position to make recommendations to improve the customer experience.  Highly successful businesses understand that improvements in businesses efficiencies are often times created by the front line staff because they are in the trenches and see what’s working and where the rock needs to be polished.   This is pure gold when you foster this type of creative environment in your business.

For Paula Minniti, General Manager of jetBlue’s Los Angeles terminal, it’s this level of ownership that her company’s leadership has instilled in her that has allowed her to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in a large corporate environment.  “jetBlue’s model is to create a franchise mentality with the managers at each terminal, and this model works beautifully because the avatar at the LAX station is a completely different then than any other station.  And it’s an important distinction and dictates the way we meet meet their expectations in a completely unique way, while adhering to the company values  of safety, integrity, caring, passion and fun.” Explains Minniti.

When you understand what your avatar cares and values, you can easily meet and manage their expectations.

With Minniti’s knowledge of the local demographics, psychographics, and sociographics, she knows that Los Angeles customers have very high expectations – they’re used to being treated a certain way in every thing they do, and every where they go.  The jetBlue employees at LAX are trained to meet their expectations at a higher level and provide an exceptional customer experience as a result.

“Air travelers,” Minniti explains, “are in a heightened emotional state by the time they get to the airport, and all they care about is quickly getting their bags checked, getting through security and out to the terminal on time. So the critical first step in allaying their angst occurs with first interaction by a jetBlue employee – typically the ticket agent.”

Training in soft skills is critical, but Minniti saw there was an enormous physical barrier in the way of the ticket counter between her agents and the customers. And as she began to connect the dots in her mind as to how to bridge over this physical barrier to create a 5-star customer experience, she saw the counter as the major obstacle. Minniti set out to get her agents out from behind the counter and in the direct path of their customers.

She visualized that when time permitted, her agents would walk out from behind the counter, greet the customer while they were still in line, and help them bring their bags over to the counter to begin the ticketing process. The simple act would create a tipping point in not just the greeting, but in the physical act of assisting with the bags so that their customers felt like an extra measure was taken on their behalf.  This is what Reach Across The Register is all about.  Building loyalty by taking small yet noticeable actions to differentiate your business from your competition.

Counter and checkout areas are not just a visual barrier, they can also be a relationship barrier

But there was a safety issue Minniti had to consider before she began to drive the idea up to the corporate level, and that was the height of the traditional luggage scale that her agents would have to step over in order to be on the customer side of the counter. As safety compliance is always an employers primary concern, the solution Minniti saw lay in the installation of zero-profile scales. It would not only allow her agents the ability to safely come to the customer side of the counter, but by eliminating the need to lift luggage there would be reduced employee injuries.

The results of this concept are measurable:  The customer is seeing that jetBlue’s staff really cares about them by taking extra measures to expedite their travel, the intrinsic rewards of feeling like a contributor to a business solution for an employee is critical to overall job satisfaction, and in the end the business receives higher ratings from their customers.

REACH ACROSS THE REGISTER:  Adapting your business to exceed the expectations of your customers is what smart businesses today are doing. Consumer expectations are swinging back to old school approaches of personal connections and high touch.  By soliciting the input from your front line employees you create two powerful outcomes: 1) They develop an entrepreneurial eye towards systems and processes that you might not otherwise see and 2) They extend this sense of ownership as they relate to your customers and plant the seeds of a unique customer experience that differentiates your business from your competition.

So invite, consider and weigh all the different ideas your staff has to elevate your business and foster creativity that ultimately leads your business to an exceptional 5-star customer experience.