Monday, October 23, 2006


I am a believer that little things like friendliness can have a huge impact. jetBlue airlines shares my faith. CEO David Neeleman has incorporated smiling into the jetBlue culture. Though it has cost them nothing, it has paid off in huge dividends. Here's a section from Michael Levine's Broken Windows, Broken Business:

Charting a course between the saccharine smiles and the “buh-byes” of the old days and the surly, irritated flight personnel of most major airlines today, jetBlue decided to insist on service that was professional and efficient without being apathetic.

Neeleman was quoted by the Los Angeles Times Magazine as saying that his priorities were to find the middle ground and keep costs down while not sacrificing customer service. In other words, he would pay attention to the details.

“We’ve tried to say, look, we’ll get rid of the food because you don’t care about it anyway,” the paper quoted him as saying. “We’ll have some cool snacks instead and we’ll be liberal with those. We’ll do tray service so you can get up when the seat belt sign if off and not have a flight attendant tell you to sit down because you’re blocking the beverage cart. And we’ll do it all with a smile, as opposed to with a whip.”

That smile was key. Business and leisure travelers were tired of having to deal with flight attendants, ticket agents, and other airline personnel who seemed so unhappy in their jobs that they couldn’t bear to move a facial muscle when dealing with the air travel industry’s lifeblood, the traveler. Stand-up comics were doing routines on airline food decades before the airlines cut back massively on serving meals on airplanes, but the food was never the main problem. It was a broken window. The attitude that allowed unpalatable food to appear on planes and not be corrected was the problem, and here was jetBlue, dealing with it and solving it in a way that made sense to most travelers. The smile was the signal that things on this airline weren’t just going to be different – they were going to be better.

I don't believe that the "traditional church" is viewed much differently than the major airlines in style of presentation. Most people expect when they go to church to get either a "saccharine smile" or a "buh-bye." We can blow people away by actually smiling. By actually caring. The smile can be the signal that things are going to be better.

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