Explain the “why” behind the “what”
Sunday, on our return from a rather quick trip to Detroit for a family emergency, Donna Lee (my wife) and I wanted to sit together. To get seats together, we ended up in the last row, aisle 40. Thankfully we were able to get a direct flight, four hours and 23 minutes. That is a long time to sit crammed in with very little leg room. The only meal available was a “snack box” or buy a sleeve of peanuts from the flight attendants. The crew, which seemed to have great attitudes, worked very hard walking back and forth, up and down the aisle.
We were the last ones off the plane. When I stepped into the aisle, there wasn’t any rush. I said to one of the flight attendants, “Thank you. You guys really worked hard. I appreciate your service.” He said; “Thank you. It is easier for us than it is on you being crammed in the way you were. We don’t even offer you any food or a movie. It just looks like corporate greed to me.” I didn’t comment. The airline has just reorganized to avoid bankruptcy and I am reasonably sure their frugality is a response to competitive pressure. I am not sure of the amount of profit this particular airline is making, if they are like most other airlines, they are a long way from stuffing a lot of money in their shareholders or anyone else’s pockets. The flight attendant seemed to care, wanted to do a good job, wanted to take care of the customer. From all indications, he doesn’t understand why certain economic decisions are being made, economic decisions made at higher levels that he has to implement. He probably takes the heat from a lot of customers who are not complaining about low fares, which are probably half of what they were ten years ago when money was worth far more than it is today. In other words, paying 25% of what we were paying 36 years ago before deregulation in 1978.
Frontline employees always tell the truth, whatever their understanding of the truth is. If you think for a moment that you can get your frontline to consistently say something they don’t believe just to make you look good, you may be sadly mistaken. Here are two actions smart managers are taking:
- Survey your customers to understand their objective, honest, anonymous perspective
- Explain your policies, pricing structure, delivery system, etc., so that your associates feel fully informed and understand the reason for decisions that may seem to compromise quality or customer service commitment.
When your employees understand the reason behind the changes – the “what” – you make, they will be enthusiastic about their team. They will tell the positive “truth” and your team will fly high.
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