How one small gesture made over 600,000 people understand the importance of employee engagement

May 22, 2019
Employee Engagement

I’ve spent hours, if not days, writing blogs to help and inspire others when it comes to how to treat their employees. They’ve made a difference, but not in the way that a short (and quick) post on LinkedIn did about an engaged employee of KLM. At the time of writing this blog it’s had over 600,000 views, 100 reshares, 4,600 reactions and 140 comments, which is far from my normal response rate.

The purpose of this blog is to first of all thank everyone for jumping into the conversation to celebrate this level of customer service and engagement, but also to tell the full story. For if you think the small part of the story I shared was amazing, wait until you hear the rest of it!

It began the night before my flight, when I received an email from the airline, KLM, saying that for a small amount of money I could upgrade to business class. Knowing that I would be exhausted after standing on my feet all day leading two engagement workshops, I jumped at the chance. Score 1 for KLM, making this experience available to me at a fair price.

It continued as I boarded the plane, settled into my seat, and listened as the flight attendants greeted the boarding passengers. Where normally attendants would pleasantly say hello, what happened here went well above and beyond. They chatted to everyone, talking about their trip, their clothes, telling jokes, and so much more. I sat and laughed, thinking to myself how impressed I was with how genuine and caring the team was. Score 2 for KLM, showing from the start that their team cared about customers as humans not just numbers.

My next encounter with great customer service, and the part I shared in my post, happened when I asked the flight attendant for a cookie. I told her that I had a train ride after my flight, and would love a cookie to have on this last leg of my journey. She smiled at me, walked away, and came back with a bag which contained a small bottle of wine, cookies and nuts. Score 3 for KLM, taking into consideration the needs of their customers to do what was right for them.

The story finished when I stopped the flight attendant to thank her and her team for everything. I told her that I had spent 2 days leading workshops on helping businesses drive employee engagement, and wished I could bottle up her engagement and deliver it to others. I asked her what it was that KLM did to make her love her job and be so engaged.

She answered that it was having the freedom to do what was right for the customers, being able to make a difference to others. She then disappeared and brought back a card for me which said:

Thank you for your huge compliment. At KLM we love our job, and we hope to pass our love on to our passengers.

Score 4 for KLM, creating jobs and giving employees the freedom to do what is right to deliver fantastic customer service.

I love this story because it shows the true power of employee engagement. How by trusting your employees,  giving them freedom and autonomy to do the right thing and information (such as your mission, purpose and values) to understand what is ‘right’, magic will truly happen – for the customer, for the company and for the employee!

Normally I’d share statistics supporting the impact of employee engagement, but instead let me end by sharing just a few of the many comments made on my post:

Great to hear when employees are celebrated for taking initiative like this – making memorable experiences and customers for life.

Perfect example of how an engaged employee will proactively look after the customer.

Trusting employees to do the right thing, rather than restricting them by working practices and processes based on not trusting them. This is an example of meaningful work creating value and a great employee experience creating a great customer.

This is how a company takes care of its customers, by taking care of their employees first. They then pass it on to the customer.

Great story of an empowered employee who doesn’t need to seek permission just does what’s right.

The true value of a highly engaged employee is both long-term AND a lasting testimony to customers as to the “heart” of that company.

When your employees know they can go the extra mile for clients, you’ll see amazing examples of empathy.

Employee empowerment ripples into great customer service. The little things make a huge difference.

About Debra

I’m an author, speaker and consultant (or what I like to call ‘pay it forward’ specialist) with over 20 years experience as a global HR leader, working for companies such as Gap Inc., Quintiles, Merlin Entertainment and Reward Gateway.

I’ve published two books, Build it: A Rebel Playbook for Employee Engagement and Effective HR Communication: A Framework for Communicating HR Programs with Impact.

Feel free to add comments and questions, and of course, feel free to share on any social network you fancy. Thank you!

© 2018 Debra Corey.

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