Doing the Right Thing Often Impresses Employees Even More Than Your Customers

The United terminal in Newark airport has leveled up. With new and upgraded restaurants, OTG is working to transform the experience and the expectations for what an airport dining experience can be. My brother manages all of the full-service restaurants on one of the concourses there — 8 restaurants total. He told me about a recent experience spate of bad weather and the unique set of circumstances that he and his teams were faced with.

Surprisingly, weather forecasters recently predicted rain for Newark and the surrounding areas of New Jersey and they got it wrong: It snowed. Because it was the first snow of the season — and it was unexpected — not only were there flight delays, but road conditions meant many employees were not able to get to work. Together, this perfect storm resulted in significant traffic to severely understaffed restaurants.

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OTG happens to be based in New York City, even though they serve airports across the country. When the corporate HQ heard what was going on, most of the management team jumped on a train at Penn Station and went to Newark. The head chef for the company was working the line. A world renowned pizza chef was making pizzas. Some of their senior-most management was expediting food — at Newark.

My guess is that many customers did not notice the presence of these company executives. Even with their presence, service would be under severe stress and they may still have not have delivered the typical experience they aim to deliver. That said, if they had not showed up, it would have been far worse.

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As my brother tells it, many of his employees who were already at work or who were able to get in ended up working incredibly long shifts to cover for those who could not get in. In cases like this, you might expect a hit to morale. Instead, some of these employees expressed deep appreciation for the management coming to their aid and an enhanced appreciation for the company they work for.

Despite the adversity they faced that day, it’s clear that many on the OTG staff recognized they were part of a true team and that management had their backs. I suspect this will go a long way towards ensuring the team appreciates their job and shows it in the way they treat customers.

Employee experience and customer experience are intertwined. A good thing happened here because the management team did the right thing. There are many more ways that companies can implement strategies and actions that create a win-win for both employee and customer experience. However, this requires those responsible for employee experience to work with those who are responsible for the customer experience. Today, cross-functional collaboration and related incentives are lacking, often thwarted by too much siloed behavior.

Bravo to OTG. I’m glad to see my brother works with a team that gets it.

Michael Allenson