Monday, June 18, 2012

A New Brand Promise in Subtle Change in Job Titles

This morning was week two in a row of east coast travel, on Delta Airlines, and probably the seventh or eighth week this year alone on the same 8am departure from San Diego to Atlanta, to then connect to points east. So I know this was the first time I've heard a subtle difference in how the Delta team working the flight refers to themselves.

"Stewardess" went away at least a couple decades ago, to be replaced by "flight attendant" when referring to the team of safety and hospitality-trained pros who work the flights. Attend to the flights. Attend to the needs of passengers. Passive, responsive, attentive, if you take the meaning of the word at face value.

On our first Delta flight today, the lead "attendant", Marsha, referred to she and her colleagues as "flight servers". Not an unintentional reference for sure. Think about it. Servers are proactive, they ancitipate needs, know your preferences if you travel enough (what kind of sweetener you like in your coffee, ice/no ice), and do what they do with a personal individual touch that goes beyond just attending to needs. Think the famous examples like Ritz-Carlton, or Intrawest.

One word in a job title a company culture doesn't make, but in this case it really sent a message about Delta's focus. And I know everyone has horror stories about Delta or (insert-airline-name-here) but it seemed a legitimate attempt to set themselves apart in an industry that is wringing every last nickel out of customers while actually decreasing service. Even though our departure was delayed by a minor maintenance issue that put us at risk of missing a connection, Marsha made those same standard announcements we can all recite, but with a little more sincerity and appreciation in her voice than most.

Marsha is one of the best in the business and worked hard today to ask the pronounciation and spelling of my last name. She wanted to "add you to my list" which made me feel like there might be some future benefit to me as a traveller for making that list, even if it's just a smile and acknowledgement.

Words are powerful. Think about how you use them in creating and conveying a culture in your business.

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