How I feel about JetBlue (and a bunch of other stuff)

August 17, 2015   |   14 Comments

Is it totally silly to have feelings about an airline? It may be. However, when you are a nervous flier (as I am), it matters.

“Nervous flier” is the term used by airport and airline professionals to designate anyone who may freak out while in the process of checking in, boarding, flying, and/or deplaning. If you use this term while booking a flight (as in, “I prefer an aisle because I’m a nervous flier), you need add no further details. This phrase means something to them. Whether you are afraid to fly because you don’t want to crash, are a hypochondriac terrified of germs, or are super claustrophobic (as I am), does not matter. Their ears perk up. Your presence could mean a disruption or problem that no one wants to face.

Whenever I book a flight, I say that I am a nervous flier and that where I am seated matters a lot. With almost every airline, the responses I receive range from politely disinterested to aggressively uncaring and obviously bored by me.

What is interesting is that they all say the same thing, some scripted version of “I’m sorry madam, is there anything else I can help you with?” when no help has actually been given and none will be forthcoming. The difference between polite disinterest and “screw you, I’m just trying to get through this without screaming at you” is in the tone. The words, as mentioned, are always the same. But the sense of human contact, of a person actually listening and feeling something and then responding from that felt sense is the tell.

As in poker, when it comes to negotiating with airline people, the tell is everything.

As human beings, we are searching for the tell in each interaction: Will this person care about me? Are they in a good mood or a bad one? Do they understand what I have said? Will they really try to get the job done or are they just going to phone it in? To answer these questions, words mean nothing. The tell is never in the words. It is in the heartspace.

When it comes to business (where, more and more, success is connected to customer loyalty and enthusiasm), the heartspace cannot be ignored for much longer. Hopefully, some great visionary or convincing business coach will figure out a way to say this to businesses so that it doesn’t sound like the candy-assed ravings of a mindfulness meditation teacher, but rather like the super sharp and bold thing that it is. It takes great intelligence to navigate this space well. You have to pay attention. Fewer and fewer people really know how to do this. (You could meditate, everyone!!)

When it comes to working from this space of human connection, for me, JetBlue has had no peer and this kept me booking flights with them whenever possible. I discovered long ago that human kindness is the only thing (besides Xanax) that can stem the tide of a claustrophobic panic attack. If a gate agent, flight attendant, or pilot shows me the least bit of care, I calm down. I’m not talking about someone holding my hand from takeoff to touchdown. I’m talking about someone saying, “Oh, you’re afraid to fly? Let me get you a glass of water.” Really basic stuff, here. However, it works miracles. The JetBlue people are usually geniuses at making such gestures. In this, they are alone among their competitors.

But, today. For the first time ever, I spoke to a JetBlue person seemed to want to “win” at our conversation rather than listen to me. I was trying to book flights around Thanksgiving and mentioned that I was a Mosaic passenger (their term for a preferred customer). No, I wasn’t, she said. It turns out that I was wrong and she was right. I hadn’t considered this option because I had been Mosaic in the past, had a zillion JetBlue miles, run my business on the JetBlue Amex and blah blah.

Once our business was done, I did something I often do when talking to customer service people. I discuss our interaction. If it has been wonderful, I say so. If they did something I particularly appreciate, I thank them for it specifically. I tell them that what they have done makes me want to continue to be their customer and that it means a lot to me.

If it has gone poorly, I say so and try, with them, to figure out why. Today, I said to this poor woman who probably just wanted to get her job done, something like this,

“I always try to fly JetBlue because in every interaction I’ve ever had with you, I’ve felt cared about and heard. Until now. I felt like you did not value me as a customer. Tell me—did I do something at the outset that made you mad? Was I being argumentative or did I come off sounding entitled? Was I being an ass? Be honest! This interaction has changed how I feel as a customer and that makes me unhappy. What do you think happened?” I was crying a little bit when I said all of this. (Hey, I’m an emotional person.)

I knew I had caught her off guard, because, of course. What customer service person wants to discuss the inner dynamics of relationships? Who wants to discuss the tell? (Besides me?!)

With the JetBlue person, I heard a bit of softening in her voice—and also that she didn’t know what to do when faced with someone like me. She’s may be the kind who sees problems, solves them, moves on, and has no interest in the gray areas. That is awesome. Every organization needs people like that! Or maybe she was at the end of a million-hour shift, who knows. Anyway, she told me she was just trying to help me understand how Mosaic worked. She made an effort. But it didn’t help. If yesterday, JetBlue was my bestie, today they are only a pal.

Okay, honestly, who cares if I am a Mosaic customer? People are being born and dying. Worlds are being created and destroyed. Everyone has a lot to worry about. It is really NOT a big deal…except on one very specific level.

How we treat each other matters. The taste we are left with at the close of an interaction may be carried over into the next interaction. If we leave even such a tiny relationship in (tiny) tatters, it actually has impact on the next people we encounter, whether it is another customer service person, a partner, the kids, neighbors, whomever. These ripples means something.

A good human society is based on the way we relate to each other. Relationships are based on units of two. Even with such absurdly first world problems, speaking honestly and kindly really matters.

I’m not talking about how to create an extraordinary business (although attending to relationships will, in fact it’s the only way, but I digress). I’m talking about how to create an extraordinary world.

The way is to care. Care enough to treat everyone decently. Care about what you do and how you do it. Care about yourself and what you feel. Care enough to express yourself skillfully (as opposed to randomly and emotionally immature-ishly). And care enough to respond to every moment from the heart.

When you are authentic, you call forth the authenticity of all involved. Relationships are established well. One can have faith in what is to follow.

Then, whether things go our way or not, we nervous people relax.

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14 Comments

  • Posted by:  Michal Ashley

    Dear Susan Piver,

    How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
    I love this blog and the links.
    I love your sensitivities and the way you think.
    I love your heart, your soul, your spirit
    And I love that you share all of you in ‘it’.

    -michal

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Michal! You make me feel so happy. Thank you and I love you too!

      • Posted by:  Michal Ashley

        Silly, huh? But oh so true! xoxo

  • Posted by:  Kimberly Bell

    Yes and yes. Just be kind. Just. Be. Kind. and then apologize when you are not kind. Thank you for you-ness!!

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Exactly! So simple…and so very, very complex. xo S

  • Posted by:  Lisa Harris

    Susan

    Yes, to the poem above!!

    ‘Relationships’ are in my mind these days. At home, work, out in the world…with ourselves. Thanks for this wonderful example of the importance of relationships and how to remember that they do, indeed, still exist. They just take some awakening.

    Sending love and gratitude to you and your wisdom.

    Lisa

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Sending love to you, too!

  • Posted by:  Barb Markway

    I hope you send this to the President of JetBlue! And your next book could be a business/customer service book! Beautiful.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      So glad you enjoyed it, Barb. xoxo S

  • Posted by:  K Thomas

    Michal, were I so eloquent….
    Susan, thank you for articulating this, as you always so effectively do, and for reminding me of something I value but, often forget.
    There is a small Canadian airline that kicks ass in the department of giving a sh*t too, should you ever have a need. Porter Airlines pilots and staff, in my experience, are among the coolest and kindest. And, I am definitely a “nervous” flier!
    Ps. 10 years (at least) later, I still look forward to your new blog posts more than anything else! Thanks for taking the time.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thanks for the suggestion of Porter and glad we’re connected! Love, S

  • Posted by:  Nathalie Desjacques

    Thanks for bringing up the topic of kindness and care in business. It made me think of a wonderful Italian friend who works in one of Milan’s highest range spas, with many celebrities and rich people. She says that she doesn’t really care who this people are in public life, but that what she’s interested in is who they really are, i.e. in their vulnerability.
    She feels what they need is to connect on a deeper level and get FULL ATTENTION – which I think is another word for loving kindness.
    She also explained to me how she enjoys sharing her love for Southern Italy (her homeland) by telling her clients stories about olive oil, sea and citrus trees and using such products in her therapy – thus encouraging individuals to connect to light, beauty and nature through their sense perceptions. No wonder people keep coming back to her. Isn’t this the ultimate luxury in today’s world? Being seen for who you are, being listened to without judgement. Very inspiring 🙂

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Yes. So lovely. xo S

  • Posted by:  Susan

    Susan,
    I REALLY loved that you shared this. I feel this way often but feel that what’s holding me back from communicating on this level with people is my emotional immaturity, and fear. I try to communicate when someone has given their attention to our interaction, how appreciated it was. When a situation hasn’t gone well, I would like to be able to communicate this with other person, but I’m too fearful of rejection as I know I would cry too. So I just try to thank them as sincerely as possible telling myself they’ve done the best they can, as have I . I think it’s terrible that we ( maybe it’s just me) can’t show our true emotions because it’s socially unacceptable. Maybe I just need to get over the fear of it and let the tears flow! I’m new to your site, I joined yesterday and have enjoyed the blogs I’ve read so far. Thank you again. Sincerely,

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