You can imagine that staff working in a sandwich shop can be happy, friendly – even quirky – and still get the job done.   My favourite example is Pret a Manager where the staff genuinely seem to be enjoying themelves. Or the Innocent smoothie fruit guys whose wacky sense of humour spills out onto their packaging.

Sure, they both need to make sure that they don’t poison anyone, but they can get away with a lot in their industry without appearing frivolous. But other industries are different. Or are they?

Somehow you wouldn’t want a nucleur power company, oil company, airline or passenger transport company to be wacky. You need them to be solid, dependable and safe.  Or do you?

Let’s take a look at some airlines for a moment.  British Airways is a very serious airline. Solid, steady and dependable. Leaving a huge opportunity for Branson to inject some personality with Virgin Atlantic.  South West Airlines have taken it even further and are highly popular and profitable.

But have these 2 airlines taken it too far?   First New Zeland Airlines in flight safety video which started with a Naked Stewardess safety video

but then produced this shocker

And for a completely different perspective here is Kalhuah, a low cost South African Airline, Kulula with head office situated in Johannesburg . Kulula airline attendants make an effort to make the in-flight “safety lecture” and announcements a bit more entertaining.

Here are some real examples that have been heard or reported. But first a couple of pics of their planes:

On a Kulula flight, (there is no assigned seating, you just sit where you want) passengers were apparently having a hard time choosing, when a flight attendant announced, “People, people we’re not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it!”

On another flight with a very “senior” flight attendant crew, the pilot said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants.”

On landing, the stewardess said, “Please be sure to take all of your belongings.. If you’re going to leave anything, please make sure it’s something we’d like to have.”

“There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane.”

“Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.”

As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Durban Airport , a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: “Whoa, big fella. WHOA!”

After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in the Karoo , a flight attendant on a flight announced, “Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted.”

From a Kulula employee: ” Welcome aboard Kulula 271 to Port Elizabeth . To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don’t know how to operate one, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised.”

“In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are travelling with more than one small child, pick your favourite.”

Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Kulula Airlines.”

“Your seats cushions can be used for flotation; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments.”

“As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses..”

And from the pilot during his welcome message: “Kulula Airlines is pleased to announce that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!”

Heard on Kulula 255 just after a very hard landing in Cape Town : The flight attendant came on the intercom and said, “That was quite a bump and I know what y’all are thinking. I’m here to tell you it wasn’t the airline’s fault, it wasn’t the pilot’s fault, it wasn’t the flight attendant’s fault, it was the asphalt.”

Overheard on a Kulula flight into Cape Town , on a particularly windy and bumpy day: During the final approach, the Captain really had to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the Flight Attendant said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Mother City. Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the Captain taxis what’s left of our airplane to the gate!”

Another flight attendant’s comment on a less than perfect landing: “We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal.”

An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a “Thanks for flying our airline. He said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally everyone had gotten off except for a little old lady walking with a cane. She said, “Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?” “Why, no Ma’am,” said the pilot. “What is it?” The little old lady said, ”Did we land, or were we shot down?”

After a real crusher of a landing in Johannesburg , the attendant came on with, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we will open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal..”

Part of a flight attendant’s arrival announcement: “We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today.. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of Kulula Airways.”

Heard on a Kulula flight. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing.. If you can light’em, you can smoke ’em.”

A plane was taking off from Durban Airport . After it reached a comfortable cruising altitude, the captain made an announcement over the intercom, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to Flight Number 293, non-stop from Durban to Cape Town , The weather ahead is good and, therefore, we should have a smooth and uneventful flight.. Now sit back and relax… OH, MY GOODNESS!” Silence followed, and after a few minutes, the captain came back on the intercom and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry if I scared you earlier. While I was talking to you, the flight attendant accidentally spilled a cup of hot coffee in my lap. You should see the front of my pants!” A passenger then yelled, “That’s nothing. You should see the back of mine!”

So if you want to make this quirky approach work, you’d better make sure that you have a very clear customer proposition supported by some really effective customer and back office processes, a strong and forgiving culture .

Without these “laugh with us” becomes “laugh at us”. And the only place customers will sepnd money to watch clowns is at the circus.

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One thought on “Can business that is fun be taken seriously – like an airline? #happy #customerservice #bpm

  1. Airlines make a fascinating case study for how to do business differently, the reality is in this particular industry that Southwest Airlines isn’t a follower but the Granddaddy of them all. The first to build a low cost model that really worked and the first real fun player in the industry, some of the funny quotes from Kulula are a direct replay of Southwest from over a decade earlier. The real instigator of this approach was Herb Kelleher a man who had so different an outlook on business that when he got into a dispute with another organisation rather than give a fortune to Texan lawyers offered his opposing CEO an armwrestling contest as an alternative means to resolution. Both organisations got massive publicity, the lawyers left with nothing. Southwest were also the first to really go to town on their aircraft painting one as a killer whale. Southwest is based out of Love Field in Dallas and is affectionately known as Love Airline by its army of fans. The company has won more awards than most could ever dream of and prove that if you get quirky right there is no stopping you.
    Ian Leaver

    For a great read on how this different approach can make a real difference to industry, customer and employee perceptions try this for a great read –

    Nuts by Kevin Freiburg
    Publisher: Broadway Books (A Division of Bantam Doubleday Del; 1st Trade Pbk. Ed edition (5 Oct 1998)
    ISBN-10: 9780767901840
    ISBN-13: 978-0767901840
    ASIN: 0767901843

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