US poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou is credited with the quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I’ve spent almost my entire career working with people and if I have learned one thing, it is the fundamental difference between customer relations and customer connections.
For me, customer relations in any industry are incredibly important because all of the things we say and do when dealing with the public should matter very much.
Our customers are choosing to bring their business to us, and each and every one of them deserves the best we can give in terms of time, skills and capabilities.
Customer connections, however, take that ethos much deeper.
It is when we take the time to connect with our customers that we truly begin to really listen to and understand what they actually need.
From there we can start to build the best possible customer experience and, hopefully, a positive feeling that will stay with them indefinitely.
After all, businesses need customers and happy ones are more likely to come back and see you another time – or tell others about the experience you gave them, including how you made them feel.
Having worked in so many public-facing roles with British Airways throughout the past three decades, I have consistently found that an important part of creating that all-important connection is relating to the customers you work with.
That is as true for a celebrity looking for a bit of privacy while they wait for their flight as it is for a family looking for assistance through confusing logistics before they travel long haul.
In my career, I have been fortunate enough to work with people from all walks of life.
Good customer connections are the most important thread running through everything I have done and continue to do.
We all like to feel special so when I decided to take the plunge and start my own business, I realised that 30 years working with people – including 15 years in a senior management role – made me well-positioned to offer something which I believe to be unique to Aberdeen and the surrounding area.
It is something that focuses on me connecting with people and, in turn, connects them with the things they need.
As a travel concierge, my focus is on making sure every one of those connections is correctly in place and working, from meeting a guest from the steps of the aircraft to sending them on their onward journey.
From airside to kerbside, discretion is the name of the game as more people opt for a scheduled flight, rather than a private jet.
They also need to strike a careful, personal balance when reducing their carbon footprint.
In addition to the celebrity who may want to slip in and out of an airport with minimum attention, travel remains complicated for all of us.
With restrictions and requirements changing frequently, it can be hard to keep on top of what’s needed before and after a flight.
Since I started PES Executive Handling I’ve found a growing number of people feel there is a benefit in having someone literally walk them through the process, right up until the moment they board, so they can relax into their journey.
By building a business on customer connections, what is said and done is important but how I make my customers feel is, to me, always the greatest reward.
Phyllis Stuart is the founder and manager of airport concierge service PES Executive Handling, of Aberdeen, and also a former British Airways customer service manager.