Even when travelling to the most beautiful, exotic destinations, an airline can make, or break your experience. As the first and last chapter in your book of adventure, they have the power to change the narrative.
Stay tuned for a story of changed plans, airline impacts and new opportunities.
This is the Customer Experience Storytime tale of…. Have Wine, Might Travel
And so it begins…
Summer is an amazing time in British Columbia. It’s one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world. So, it’s no surprise that its own residence take advantage of their own back yard whenever they get a chance.
Over those warm months, Paul and his wife Clarissa decided they needed to do just that. Not only for a vacation but also to take a breath. Clarissa recently learned she’d have to return to treatment for a reoccurrence of the cancer she’s been fighting for the past seven years. And before they returned to that trial, they wanted a little solitude.
Their choice, a 3 day getaway to the Okanagan, an area of lake-dotted communities in the interior of beautiful British Columbia. Their final destination: the Sparkling Hill Luxury Resort Spa in Vernon. They wanted to relax, and they were very serious about it.
To get them there, their choice of airline was based very much on Clarissa’s experience flying. It was to be Pacific Coastal Airlines. Clarissa travelled for work frequently. Almost on a weekly basis between Victoria and Vancouver. And she always loved the flight – something that could be an annoying trial of patience and frustration, but was in fact a journey made so much easier by the airline’s friendly and efficient service. So it had to be them.
Checking in at the gate in Victoria, the Pacific Coastal airline representative at the desk offered them hot drinks and muffins. Paul joked that she must have been up early to bake the goodies and the staff member joked back that she knew he was going to be on the flight so she made the extra effort.
It was a nice moment before they boarded the plane.
Upon arriving in the Okanagan and getting settled at the resort. Paul and Clarissa took a well enjoyed wine tour. By well enjoyed, an example would be their need for a nap while being shuttled back to the hotel after partaking in 6 wineries and several samples. They took with them a hearty bounty of 2-4 bottles from each.
This actually isn’t uncommon.
The local area is renowned for its wineries. It’s why a lot of tourists migrate to there over the summer months. As Canada’s 2nd largest wine producer, with more than 60 grape varieties and home to approximately 120 wineries, the Okanagan Valley is a favourite destination for wine lovers.
It was one of the reasons Paula and Clarissa loved travelling there. One of the reasons they didn’t usually partake in the winery adventure was the fact it was difficult to travel with any more than a few bottles. And with so many great wineries, it was a slippery slope when purchasing wine.
The rest of the vacation consisted of long hours of relaxation at the spa, a great way to take their minds off of some of the stresses soon to come.
The following day, feeling refreshed and relaxed, Paul and Clarrisa packed up their suitcases. This is where the wine challenge surfaced. How were they to transport all that wine, safely? Sure they could wrap it up in their shirts and pajamas to cushion against any baggage handling jostling, but what if they break? The only materials for travelling the wineries and wine tour company provided were a few bags and some well worn cardboard boxes. Great for getting the wine to the car but not through checked baggage and across the province.
How were they as tourists, who are just trying to enjoy the number #1 reason people came to the area, going to get their wine bounty home?
It’s a good question. And one that didn’t have an answer until a couple of years ago.
Truthfully, Paul and Clarissa were on the fence as to whether they were going to go to any Okanagan wineries at all. They’d been in this situation before and weren’t interested in the stress of trying to get the wine home.
But, remember that Pacific Coastal airline staff member that had joked about baking them muffins?
While she was checking them in, she had asked if they would be visiting any of the wineries around Kelowna. Paul and Clarissa said they thought they would, but truthfully still weren’t sure.
The staff member suggested they take a wine tour and then let them know the airline would provide them with specifically designed boxes, handled with special care, for any wine they brought home.
This clinched it for the couple on deciding whether to do a wine tour or not. The idea of trying to arrange special transport for wine home just seemed too much until she told them of their free service.
So when the couple arrived at the Okanagan airport to travel home, they made their way to the Pacific Coastal desk and were greeted by another friendly staffer who immediately started to bring out proper carrying boxes to transfer their wine in. Each box holding six wine bottles.
And, on the side of each box, there was a note reminding passengers that 50 pounds of their checked luggage always flies for free, and their wine purchases can be included in that, so enjoy the taste of the Okanagan.
Paul and Clarissa looked at each other and smiled when they saw the boxes. Their relaxation got an upgrade by Pacific Coastal airlines.
And that ends the story of… Have Wine, Might Travel
Through the eyes of this customer, let’s look at the emotional impact of this customer experience.
Paul and Clarissa wanted to have, not only a relaxing vacation, but also to enjoy one of the big reasons visitors travel to the Okanagan. Wine!
The spa and the winery tours did their part, but if the airline drops the ball, that’s going to be their last experience of their trip. Not a great final impression. But thankfully that wasn’t the case at all. They were taken care of.
And to extend that feeling, touch point with the airline company, from the muffin lady at the checkin gate to the woman getting their free wine transportation and finally to the pilots themselves.
When Paul and Clarissa were waiting at the gate to come home, the flight crew came out to welcome the passengers –the pilot and co-pilot led them out to the plane and assisted them as they boarded. They were cheerful and friendly as they chatted with Paul, when he asked them how their day had been. This was their last flight of the day.
The pilot shared their daily travels with flights all over BC, but also how grateful they were to be based in Victoria so they could be home with their families every night.
Paul’s impression, was that this was like he was talking to a friend rather than feeling like cargo. And that this was a company that has a good relationship with its employees
That’s a great feeling to be left with.
What Worked or Could Have Been Done Better
From this tale, what’s the one thing your business can take away to better serve your customers.
Be a Great Host for your Customers
1) Take every opportunity to welcome your customers – From offering a warm drink and muffins at checkin, to the informal banter between a staff member and Paul to the pilots helping escorting and helping customers with their baggage, make the experience an experience. Rather than transactional. If you provide a service that has moments of downtime or waiting, what can you do to add value?
2) Solve your customers problems – it had long been a challenge for travellers to bring their wine back from the Okanagan. A general manager at Pacific Coastal airlines had recognized they were part of the whole tourism experience to the area so she brought forward the idea of making it easier with this free wine transport service. She told Paul that it seemed obvious to her because that was why so many people flew there. Look at where you fit in your customer’s journey in the larger customer experience, and how you relate to other stops in that journey. Find ways to be thoughtful and help your customers along.
Morale of the Story:
If you help others, then they will also help you
By being thoughtful and helpful to their customers, they are creating an environment that inspires loyalty. As Paul said after this experience, “I would absolutely choose to fly with them over any other airline whenever possible.”
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