If I think about some of the best experiences I’ve had as a customer, I would put a flight I took to New York four years ago at the top of that list.
There will be many people who probably read this and say, ‘really? That’s the best you can come up with?’ But truthfully for me, 100% yes. Sure, there have been brushes with serious contenders, including a major supermarket and an equestrian fashion brand, but this Virgin Atlantic flight claims the crown for me.
For those who know me well (or who have had the misfortune to sit next to me during any sort of flight) I am petrified of flying. Like most phobias, there is no rationale behind it, it just legitimately terrifies me, and has done for the past 20 years. I avoid it wherever possible. So, for me to say that there was one even remotely nice thing about this experience is almost unbelievable.
The OMG epiphany
And the reason this flight wins is based on an “OMG” moment which has really stuck with me. For most, it would be almost inconsequential, but as someone who works in marketing, it impressed me. By way of an explanation, for those of you not down with the lingo, ‘OMG’ is an acronym I have borrowed from a great marketer called Geoff Ramm (if you ever get the opportunity to see him, do it! He’s a fantastic showman and marketing expert to boot).
OMG stands for Observational Marketing Greats - those things you come across which make you smile, and then make you tell everyone (or at least add a filter and stick it on Instagram). These are the things that really go beyond your expectation, and demonstrate that real thought went in to their very existence.
So, my flight experience wasn’t down to the check-in, the plane itself (that was fully-functional), or any of its ergonomically designed cabin. I’m not an aviation connoisseur; my expectation is it gets me from A to B in one piece, without too much of a delay, in exchange for a reasonable fare (in that order). To me, all of that’s a given, a hygiene factor if you will. But it was down to the thing which probably gets the most stick; the dreaded airline food.
I had already been beyond excited on my outbound flight to be the recipient of a mini Fab ice lolly, (naturally all food is 100% better when proportionately smaller than anything you can buy in your weekly supermarket shop). You will all be thinking ‘she has very low expectations’. Indeed, to you I may have, but to me, this was unexpected. This went beyond. This made me realise why I chose to fly with Virgin Atlantic.
It’s all about brand
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better…they served an afternoon tea. From the moment that little rectangular box landed on my retractable plastic tray, I took a sharp intake of breath and looked wide eyed at my travelling companions (they seemed non-plus about this, whereas I had the facial expressions of the squirrel in Over the Hedge, high on Cheetos dust). As I opened the box, my face basked in a warm glow of red. Everything, and I mean everything in that box was branded!
Now, if you know anything about Marketing departments, you will know that 1) We’re all about the merch! We love merchandise, the more fully branded the better. 2) we are rather partial to a pun, so imagine my delight when I spotted these:
Miniature ‘Plane’ crisps! Post-flight I discovered that they had specially selected miniature potatoes for this triumphant collaboration and even tested them at 35,000 for taste suitability. This was my OMG moment, this was the gold star of product design. Someone sat down, and thought, ‘how can we make this the best it can be? … How can we delight our customers, and make them love our brand a bit more?’ And for me, this was it.
What’s this to do with HR?
So, let’s take a step back, let’s think about this in an HR context. What happens if all the ‘hygiene factors’ of my flight with Virgin Atlantic didn’t go to plan? These are, in fact, metaphors for the things your employees take as a fundamental for you to get right: their salary, their working environment, their wellbeing, the additional perks which made them choose you above your main competitor.
What happens if all those micro-interactions incrementally caused me anxiety and frustrated me before I’d even started my journey with you? What if they’d left a bad taste in their mouth before I’d even been onboarded? Would I have been as impressed by a small bag of branded crisps? Not as much. Would I have chosen to fly with them again? Possibly not. Would I have bothered to tell anyone about how great the in-flight food was? No.
The little things really do add up
When the small things are compounded, it can leave employees feeling underwhelmed by your brand. Very few businesses could overhaul a legacy of systems and processes in one go, but imagine if you took the same thought process a marketer took in that product design for those crisps? What if you thought ‘how can we make bit better for our employees?’… ‘How could we make our recruitment process the best it could be?’… ‘How could we make our employees feel better educated before they start?’… ‘How do we help them to feel like they belong?’
These incremental gains add up and will supercharge your employee experience and continue to help you win the war for talent. The best measure of success will be when no one even notices, because they’ve been so well-crafted. So well-considered, they’re practically perfect.
Never stop questioning, because if you think like a marketer, there’s always room for a little improvement…and that’s when we start to really evolve the future of work.