I really enjoy doing business with companies whose employees are friendly and who treat me with respect. Isn't it different than those companies whose people who go through the motions, treating you like you're intruding on their life, counting the hours till quitting time?
Late last year I travelled to Lapland, in northern Finland to experience what it was like above the Arctic Circle in wintertime (fascinating!). On the first leg of the return trip, we traveled via Finnair from Ivalo to Helsinki. As we climbed up the stairs, I composed an awesome photo in my mind of the plane's cockpit with the terminal in the background. I thought it would be a great way to show what midday looks like in a place where the sun doesn't rise in mid-winter.
I quickly got my iPhone out for a snap and at that moment the Captain turned and saw me.
Finnair's friendly pilots
What could the Captain have done? Well, he could have made a signal indicating "no photos". He could have pretended to not see me and turned away. Or he could have simply waved hello.
But this Captain took a moment to open the cockpit window and flash a thumbs up and smile. Fortunately, I got the shot, which I tweaked with Instagram. When I tweeted it, @Finnair social media people responded in real-time. Perfect.
Employees as a marketing asset
Most pilots do what the handbook tells them to and nothing more. They say: "Your business is important to us" over the loudspeaker at the moment prescribed and that's it.
It's not just pilots of course. In all businesses, many employees just don't care.
I think that a culture of caring comes from the top. It starts with how the CEO treats employees and customers. It comes from how people are hired, what skills are valued and how people are promoted.
No matter how such a culture develops, it is a terrific marketing asset.