Historically speaking, airlines haven’t exactly been known for stellar customer service. That is, until JetBlue entered the market in the late '90s. The airline's founders wanted to change public perception, so they built a company squarely focused on service and employee engagement. The concept was a huge hit and the airline’s success has sustained throughout the years; it was even featured at the top of the 2013 North American Airline Satisfaction Study by J.D. Power & Associates.
Ann Rhoades can be credited with a good portion of JetBlue’s success. She is one of the company’s co-founders and famously known for her dedication to service and engagement. In 2010, she came out with the book Built on Values: Creating an Enviable Culture that Outperforms the Competition.
Here, she shares a few of her top engagement tips.
Perform group recognition
Employees appreciate recognition, especially public recognition. Rhoades encourages business owners to call out employees’ customer service-based achievements in all-employee meetings. One big tip: be specific with recognition. Explain exactly what the employee did to deserve a call-out.
“It makes them feel great to be recognized in front of their peers,” she says. “It also encourages other people to emulate their behaviors.”
Handwrite thank you letters
Mentally flash back to the days of your childhood when your parents would require you to write thank you notes to family and friends after holiday celebrations. Now apply that to your employees. Everyone likes to receive personal notes—after all, they are quite rare these days—so take the time, when someone goes the extra mile, to sit down and thank them, in writing.
“Don’t overdo it because it will lose its value,” Rhoades advises. “But remember that thank you notes have a tremendous impact. When I was at JetBlue, we would give them out to maintenance guys and they would carry them around for years and bring them home to show their families. They were really proud of those notes and these were big, macho guys.”
Involve employees in important decisions
Everyone wants to feel like they are part of something, so make your employees feel valued by involving them in big decisions. While at JetBlue, Rhoades would encourage employees to name individual aircrafts.
“We would also ask them to design graphics for plane tails; they loved being involved,” she remembers.
On a smaller scale, retail shop owners can get employees involved by asking them to help with window displays. Even small decisions can increase employee engagement.
Schedule face-to-face interaction
Small business owners are busy people and it can be difficult to find the time to recognize employees. Rhoades recommends CEOs schedule employee interaction into their calendars.
“Make it part of your day to go around and say hello to your employees,” she suggests. “Make the rounds in the morning, at noon and in the evening. If you do that, I promise that you will see employee engagement and customer service levels increase.”