I was on a recent flight as I started to write this piece on service, relationships and integrity.
Being in the service industry, it is very common for me to critique others in service, always seeking the “wow factor” or the one thing that someone is doing to set themselves apart from others. I have tried to turn this switch off, but it doesn’t happen. I love to be re-energized by someone’s efforts to turn a common experience into a great experience.
The flight I was on was rather short, a one-hour trip to Charlotte, non-work related. We had a flight attendant named Scott, who took time to connect with each guest on this flight, particularly a child in front of us whom he offered almonds to, which she politely declined. He returned several minutes later with a box of donuts that he had purchased pre-flight from Harrisburg International Airport. These were not just glazed donuts. It was around Easter, and the donuts were colorfully decorated with mounting Peeps, and, as you can imagine, the child’s reaction was much different with the donuts.
When Scott had offered drinks to us, he shared that there was an issue with the coffee machine and apologized for the inconvenience. This wasn’t a big deal for us, so my husband opted for the next best thing, a bloody Mary. The drink was nothing less than exceptional. We couldn’t believe the flavor profile, so we asked what mix he had served. He shared that it was the airline’s mix, but that he was from Texas, and Texans like their bloodies a bit spicy, so he added to the mix. A few minutes later, he showed the bloody Mary condiment bag that he carries with him to make an exceptional drink for his clients, consisting of hot sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire and olives.
I don’t fly often, but I believe that Scott was going above and beyond to make our service exceptional. Several minutes later, the other flight attendant stopped at our row and asked if we had brought our own olives. We shared with her that the drink was incredible and that Scott had made it. Her exact comment was, “That is above and beyond.” And that’s exactly how we felt.
I see time as the biggest “wow factor” of all. In our daily lives, most of us have a tendency to believe that we just don’t have time. In this particular situation, Scott had an entire plane to cater, and we were no different than anyone else on that flight. He made it a point to make it an enjoyable and memorable experience for everyone. As I thought about this experience, I thought about the people in my life who have made this same type of impact. When you have the ability to make someone feel that they have your undivided attention and that you really care, the “wow factor” becomes easier to achieve. In the service industry and in life in general, we are faced with decisions every day that reflect on who we are as a person and how we want to be perceived. Those decisions we make leave the impression on others of who we are.
Coming from a family that has established a local business and living with my husband who also has a local business, we have a tendency to shop local first and a drive to promote the importance of local. When you can support a business that has been built in and within your community, you are supporting the local organic drive. Building a local brand doesn’t come without its own difficulties. You are faced with all the same challenges as a large enterprise but without the typical funding. It’s great to see the hype created over the years to support local, but it’s a question we should all ask ourselves. Where are we spending our dollars and can they be exchanged to support a local business?
One of the reasons I live here in the area is that I believe small businesses have been empowered by our community. When a customer shows loyalty to a small business, in my opinion, it’s not because they support local so much as it is because of the experience they’ve had with that or another small business. When someone invests time and energy into getting to know you as a person and as their shopper or supporter, I believe they are showing you they value your relationship and want you to know they don’t take it for granted.
I believe there are a few simple keys to this concept being successful: exceptional service, honest relationships and integrity. The combination of these words alone speaks volumes. They encompass many of the best and most admirable traits: honesty, uprightness, trustworthiness, fairness, loyalty and the courage to keep one’s words and one’s promises, regardless of the consequences.
Coming from parents who never chose to speak negatively of anyone, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by wholeness, which is a blessing. May we all learn to be less judgmental, more supportive and encouraging of each other in order to continue to establish a foundation in our community, where our families will desire to live and work for endless generations to come.
Jaime Novinger-Toigo is president of Service 1st Restoration & Remodeling, a community publisher of TheBurg.