Trends, brands and terms need refreshing and updating now and then. One thing that always endures, however, is interaction between people, such as encounters with customers. And how these turn out depends a lot on chemistry and attitudes.
Recently, as I set out after service to collect any trash that remained in the cabin, I stopped to chat with my nephew, who just happened to be on the flight. Then I provided another passenger with some information on a connecting flight. A few rows on I recognised a half-familiar acquaintance. Naturally, I also introduced myself to his colleague. The gentlemen were in a holiday mood and had an open attitude. Indeed, they were well known for their positivity. We swapped some experiences about their destination. The conversation was pervaded by a pleasant atmosphere and good-natured small talk. Nothing too excessive.
As I turned back to the kitchen, I almost bumped into a passenger going into the business class. I don’t remember how we began the conversation, but I won’t forget the encounter. Dear me, is this beginning to sound like a love story? The kind in which almond-shaped, turquoise-green eyes are glimpsed between tresses of hair? No, I didn’t have this to offer. I could perhaps have offered a mother’s love, but he wasn’t my son.
By his appearance, he could have been an exchange student. But he wasn’t. He was a Finnish, 25-year-old young man who lives in America, does business there that extends all the way to Asia, and who flies almost as much as I and my colleagues. My tresses of hair didn’t move, but my small raisin-shaped eyes opened wide in wonder. Mouths uttered words and ears listened carefully. The conversation flew from one continent to another, and the powerful common ingredient was attitude. An attitude consisting of sincerity, curiosity, difference and open-mindedness. I didn’t imagine that I resembled a business partner or business adviser, but a stirrer of thoughts and issues, for sure.
It was as if I was spurred on by an ideas group organised by Insano that I had attended before Christmas. There, too, the participants represented different professions, and nothing was what one would have expected. When topics were mixed up, refined, expanded, ornamented and pruned in an enthusiastic atmosphere, the individual spice added by each of us was invaluable. Unique and different.
The dialogue of this customer and me was of a similar vein; knowledge and business cards were exchanged instead of kisses.
Well, to tell the truth, he also wrote done the names of a few restaurants, which I later passed on a customer looking for recommendations; and I also leant him my guide book to read.
Then it was once again time to focus on my basic duties and prepare for another serving. A colleague had been watching me, and she said with a smile: “When it comes to mingling, you’re a true professional!” This tickled my sense of humour. I imagined the events of the flight. Wearing oven gloves, clutching a teapot and chanting the words: “I was mingling, promoting, lobbying and boosting in a customer meeting.” Rather trendy, perhaps, but not quite in accord with my brand.
For me, these positive events were like a valuable pearl necklace. I wrapped them in silk and velvet deep in my heart and strongly believed once again in the merits of mingling.
My pearl necklace did not, however, prove to be an infallible weapon. I tried at my destination, beyond the scope of my linguistic competence, to obtain a taxi. First I showed my hotel card through the driver’s window. He abruptly closed the window and sped off. When the next taxi arrived, I opened the door and showed by hotel card and map. The driver pulled the door closed and put his foot on the gas.
When the third taxi came, I swooped into back seat, pulled the door shut and only then showed the card and map. The driver mumbled something and inspected the card suspiciously. Then the map. I was convinced that he couldn’t see properly, so I pushed forward between the front seats, popped my reading glasses onto his nose and showed him the hotel location. I nodded furiously at the same time and smiled with my whole face. I imagined that I was creating a first-class customer encounter.
I then added ‘brmmm brmmm’ and pointed the way forward. He continued to mumble, but finally started the car. I leaned back from between the front seats. But then pushed forward once more to retrieve my reading glasses from his head. At each intersection he turned to look at me, and I indicated right and left in a Queen-like fashion. Smiling. All was well.
At one intersection the driver showed me the door. I smiled and said that this wasn’t the hotel. I repeated the sentence in Finnish. At the same time, the driver was stretching to open the back door. Whoosh flew my bag onto the pavement, to be followed by my pearl necklace and finally my self-conceit. Or perhaps the order of departure was otherwise. But one thing was certain – this customer encounter was over.
Thus trends, brands and terms are updated and taxis come and go, but my pearl necklace is here to stay.