Story #1:

I was flying from Ottawa to Toronto. I arrived at the airport a couple hours before my flight. I get into the line up to check in and after 15 mins in the maze I am checked in. I proceed to the security line and after about 30 mins I’m through security and proceed to the gate area. It’s still about 45 mins until my flight departs so I settle in with my laptop to wait. We board and depart on time.  The flight and arrival is equally uneventful and on time.

Do you think the value delivered for my travel dollars in story #1 is reasonable? I do, as it is certainly what I expect. The airline moved me from point A to B without much hassle. Depending on the airline there may be differences in the experiences but I see it as still reasonable value.

Story #2:

I am in Ottawa and receive a call from my family that our dog just died. You can read the whole story here, and here’s the abridged version: I arrive at the airport 20 mins before the next WestJet flight departs. A WestJet employee spots me and comes to find out what’s wrong. After explaining my dog just died and I need to get home she gives me a BIG hug (I needed that!). She asks what I need and I tell her I just need to get to Toronto as soon as possible. She calls the gate and tells them to hold the next flight for a family emergency. She re-issues my boarding pass, escorts me to the front of the long security line and gives me a good-bye hug. When I arrive at the gate they board me, close the door and we depart 5 mins late. In the air a flight attendant asks if my allergies are bugging me. When I tell him my dog just died he stops his work and spends the next 10 mins talking with me. The end result is I moved from downtown Ottawa to my doorstep in Kitchener in 3 hours (normally impossible).

Do you think the value delivered for my travel dollars in story #2 is reasonable? I would describe it as Wow!  Hardly a unique story for WestJet (not to say they’re perfect). How do they do this when so many companies are struggling to deliver even reasonable value?

I think the word “Value” has become a buzz word. Over-used, misunderstood and too often companies fall short. I’m equally as guilty in turning value into a buzz word. I talk about shipping valuable features all the time not really paying attention to what I mean by it. I have often assumed the people I’m coaching would know how to define value. In hindsight I now realize I’ve been missing something important.

I have come to believe delivering Wow is only possible with an alignment of the values of the company, it’s employees and customers:


Values Alignment

When you have this alignment it is much easier to deliver Wow. On that sad day in November WestJet certainly proved this theory. It’s also why on one trip through Calgary last year our baggage handlers were on the edge of the ramp waving good bye to us. Not surprising when their company values include:

  • Appreciative of our People and Guests
  • Fun, Friendly and Caring
  • Positive and passionate in everything we do

So why do so many companies struggle to deliver Wow? I browsed through the websites of about a dozen companies. With half of them I failed to even to find a statement of their Values. Of the remaining sites most of them had nice statements such as “Integrity, courage and safety”. Very few had Values statements I thought I could identify with as a customer.

In the organizations I work with most have Values statements. So what’s the gap? I believe it might come down to two basic problems:

1) The Values statement is more about the company making money rather than the experiences of their customers. It’s as if they paid a lot of money to consultants to help create them. When this happens the people at the company spend too much time focused on the profitability and success of the company. If you create Wow type experiences for your customers they will make you profitable and successful.

2) Companies don’t live their values. In some big company meeting an executive may talk about the corporate values. Worse yet they are published in an email. The company may even rename rooms to reflect the Values statement. But where they fall on their face is to change the culture of the organization and create a strong alignment between the company, it’s people and their customers. Don’t believe me … go ask your people to name your corporate or customer’s values. Sure you’ll find a few who can speak to them but I’d be willing to bet many of them may only have a vague idea at best. I’d even go one step further and ask what it means to them.

How do your developers view themselves? Are they there to create systems, or are they there to create Wow moments for your customers?

I certainly have lots to learn with regards to value. However I know the one thing I’ve learned is: to deliver those Wow type moments for your customers, the place to start is with the values of everyone involved. If you don’t align these you will struggle to hit Wow!


Building Great Teams

Building Great Teams

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