The importance of a warm welcome

My very good friend Steven always jokes that as a a lowly Blue member with British Airways Executive Club frequent flyer scene, the only perk he can expect is “an extra warm welcome.”  It’s a phrase rattled off every time you board a British Airways flight: “…and an extra warm welcome to our British Airways Executive Club members.”  I’m not entirely convinced that it is any more genuine than the 7/11 store clerk in downtown New York asking me”how you doing today?” This got me thinking about why an extra warm welcome is so important later on in the customer experience.

To better explain, I’d like to share a couple of examples.On a recent trip to Iceland, we’d booked a plethora of tours with a local boutique travel agency, Pink Iceland. We used them not because of price, jazzy marketing or Trip Advisor reviews.  We chose them because having used them previously, we knew they were very good.  On arrival at the airport, our guide, Gudni greeted us with warm bear-hugs like old friends.  He remembered us from our last trip 3 years ago and made us feel at home straight away. As we took our first tour, he surprised us with additional unexpected additions to the tour and an ice cold beer to round off the tour.  Nice touches that mean we’ll go back again.  It was an extra warm welcome, for the second time. Even if everything hadn’t been perfect (which it was), we’d have overlooked problems because Gudni was so personal and welcoming from the moment we arrived.

Compare this with any major supermarket.  Even if you have a loyalty card with years worth of data on when & what you have purchased, wouldn’t it be amazing to be greeted with a comment from a member of staff to say “hey, did you forget the cheese which you usually buy?” or “did you notice that special offer on the jam you like?”  It wouldn’t be difficult for large businesses to make us feel welcome, but instead, most choose to “personalise” your experience by emailing you “targeted” promotions.  For the years of loyalty with your supermarket, do you ever feel that warm welcome?

The point that I’m making is that whilst it’s really important to create a great first impression when you first connect with / sign up / enroll a customer, as the customer comes round and round your customer journey, loyalty builds by creating that initial warm welcome each time they go through your journey.

Another rather clunky experience is the British Airways habit of bringing their “extra warm welcome” to life by sporadically walking up to elite status flyers of their loyalty scheme mid-flight, and reading your name from an iPad to say how glad they are to see you on-board again.  At best, slightly quaint gesture of recognition, but for most, it’s cringe-worthy (and for the staff, too!)  Most people would prefer to have the product or service they consume to be exactly what they expected over a “personalised” experience.  A positive start to every cycle means customers will be more forgiving if something doesn’t quite go to plan.

It’s not always possible to deliver the genuine human touch we experienced with our travel agent in Iceland, but as data-rich businesses who “understand” customers’ needs and behaviours, there should be a way to make your customer smile each time they engage with you. Make it simple, and genuine and you’ll see how much more inclined they are to form the habit of coming back to you more often!




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