Skip to content →

CX Lessons from Jeanne Bliss Part 2 – Alaska Airlines

In the latest in our series of guest posts, noted customer experience author and speaker Jeanne Bliss is sharing two of the case studies from her latest book Would You Do That To Your Mother?, which looks at the importance of thinking about people as individuals when making decisions about the experience you offer.

Jeanne’s second blog looks at why the human touch is a vital part of the customer service process. Delivering this consistently means trusting and empowering your people, as this second case study from Alaska Airlines shows.

#2: A Case Study to #MakeMomProud: Alaska Airlines Decided that Employees Can Make It Right.

Decision Intent: Let customer issue recovery be natural, human and right.

Everyone at Alaska Airlines is held accountable, given permission, and trusted to help a customer in need. Where other companies might hold employees accountable for that same mission, but give them little leeway to act, Alaska moves in the other direction. Ben Minicucci, Alaska’s President and COO gives everyone permission to act at work like they’d act at home: “Do what you think is right,” he tells employees. “We trust you. You’ll never get in trouble for making a decision. And we don’t want you to call the supervisor.

What Alaska Airlines Did to Make Mom Proud: “We Trust You” Empowerment Toolkit.

Alaska Airlines, like the other #MakeMomProud companies, takes the long view in investing in hiring the right people with service in their personal DNA and then enabling them to act.  They train and then trust. Everyone hired, including baggage handlers, the people at departures, your gate agent, flight crew, service reps at the airport, and those on the phone are prepared for the vulnerable moments when humanity means the most.  The airline travel experience is fraught with potential opportunities for customer frustration and disappointment – and these times when personally connecting and showing up as human is most critical.

“Connect first, then decide how to act” is the approach employees are guided to take.  Each is encouraged to “find the story of the customer, and create a personal connection.”  That informs how they decide to act and how to personalize how they solve a challenging customer experience, such as a delayed or cancelled flight. Based on loose guidelines people are trusted to customize responses – air miles, money, restaurant vouchers, and fee waivers are some of the gestures proactively given to them to use – without asking anyone.  Customer Service Agents receive special training in how to humanly help and have more options in addition to their toolkit gestures they are free to act upon. Mobile devices provide them updates on customer situations and tools to help them.  For example, when customers agree to be bumped to another flight, instead of setting compensation limits, employees are encouraged to make their best judgment based on the situation and the best human response.

Impact: With these toolkits Alaska prepares and enables people to act, elevating both the customer and employee experience. People in companies united by purpose – then proven with action and trust are the happiest and build the greatest organic growth and results.  That is in action here.  SmarterTravel, the Points Guy and FlyerTalk cite Alaska Alaska airlines as best of the best in the U.S. – as best airline and/or frequent flyer program.  It just earned J.D. Power’s highest satisfaction rating among traditional (nonbudget) airlines for the tenth year in a row.

These are just two of the 32 case studies in Would You Do That To Your Mother, which provides a 5-step path that guides readers to evaluate, understand and act to embed the behaviours of companies that #MakeMomProud and drive transformative customer experience improvements. Read the first chapter here.

If you missed Jeanne’s first blog on how the Dorchester Collection managed to increase its guest experience index by 22% you can read the full article here.

About Jeanne Bliss

Jeanne Bliss is a leadership and customer experience advisor and keynote speaker who motivates and guides the worlds’ most beloved companies to become unforgettable; earning growth and admiration through their elevated business practices and the humanity of their people.

For over 35 years, Jeanne has led companies to earn business growth. As the inaugural Chief Customer Officer at Lands’ End, Coldwell Banker, Allstate and Microsoft Corporations, she led the achievement of over ninety-eight percent retention rates. As a strategic advisor, she’s guided over 20,000 leaders on using her 5-competency framework proven to achieve customer-driven growth. As a keynote speaker, 1,500 of the world’s largest companies have asked her to address their audiences on how to elevate their position with customers and in the marketplace. Visit her website, or follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn to learn more.

Published in customer experience Customer Experience Management customer feedback customer service customer support employee morale