I mentioned that my mom, and I went to the beach last weekend. We enjoyed many extremes in customer service and many forgettable moments of mediocrity too.
There is something about being on vacation that slows things down. It slows down the way you move. It slows down your thinking and somewhere in all of that, you simply have more time to notice. Much of what you notice becomes part of your memories – those are the moments you will talk about later with friends and family.
So, picture us. You and me. Sitting around a campfire, enjoying stories from our travels because I’m about to share some goodies.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a good bit in my lifetime. Oddly, until this trip, I had not flown with United Airlines. I’m pretty brand loyal, but we had a family connection who gifted us these plane tickets. So, if it’s free, it’s for me! Unfortunately, that same well-intentioned individual mispelled both of our names for these flights, and I didn’t catch it until it was time to check-in the night before our flight.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I called United Airlines other than long hold times. And while they did say that they were “experiencing higher than number call volume” in so many words, I did get to speak to a representative.
This individual was so patient and kind. We were able to get our names fixed, and they even checked us in for our flight while we were on the call. However, before we could also check our bags over the phone, the call was disconnected.
I cut our losses and decided we would just figure it out when we got to the airport. But to my surprise, I got a call back, and we were able to finish the transaction.
The next morning when we got to the counter, we sheepishly asked about our seats which were not seated together. Of course, if possible, we wanted to sit together. The woman at the counter took incredible care of us. She tried to call the counter at the gate to tell the agent that we wanted to be together. She then shared that individual’s name and told us to tell her that she sent us. When we got to that counter, again, we felt a little sheepish asking. This individual saw that no seats were available together in basic seating, but she quietly moved our seats together and handed us updated tickets with a smile. When we got on the flight, we had been given roomy seats right behind first class.
I was amazed by this. And my amazement continued when we hurrried off the plane to make a connection flight that would take off in the next 40 minutes. United Airlines put our gate right next to our connection gate. It was so easy breezy and a huge relief in a large airport.
Fast forward to arriving at our VRBO rental. The property manager had changed the code to get into the house to my phone number. This made daily entry into the house easy from the beach because it was keyless, but it was also easy for us to remember. How personalized! When we entered the home, it was spotless, beautifully decorated, and stocked with any possible thing you could think of for a comfortable beach stay. The rooms were well-labeled with information and directions on how to use and access things. She had a note with our name on it, some nice soap and hand sanitizer, and some local chips and salsa. She also had fresh pumpkin bread waiting for us in the kitchen.
I could not get over the little touches and the pride she took in her home and in creating a positive, personalized experience for guests.
This really has me wondering how we can go out of our way to make life easier for students, parents, and staff in our schools. And how can we thrill and delight with little touches that let people know that they are special to us?
Sometimes, the little things are big things. When I talk about our trip, these little moments are the moments that I find myself mentioning.
And I think I can narrow it all down to one thing:
It felt like someone was looking out for us.
And who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t want to feel like someone has their back and is looking out for them and their best interest? Who doesn’t want to know that someone cares deeply about whether they have a great day?
Looking out for people and their best interest is part of the business of school.
So, what little things can we do to make sure people know that we care about them in our schools?
Let’s plan moments of surprise and delight. Let’s also be prepared to turn problems into opportunities to be of service to someone else.
Problems are opportunities to step up. Problems are opportunities to practice being leaders.
Problems are opportunities to put people first and to show them how much they matter.
And showing people how much they matter is the foundation of education.