By Steve Moran

No matter what your satisfaction survey says.

I have just taken a Delta flight to Newark for a very quick trip to moderate a panel on the other side of the country.

Today was one of those nearly perfect airport days. I found a good parking spot, had no checked bags, went straight to the TSA Clear line, where there was zero line. The gate was a short walk from the TSA checkpoint, and when I got there I found a comfortable seat.

The flight boarded exactly on time. There was plenty of overhead bin space for my roller bag and backpack.

The gate agent was efficient, and the flight attendant greeting passengers was appropriately friendly.

I even got a cup of coffee the way I wanted to before takeoff.

It all worked out exactly like I wanted it too, expected it too. It was perfectly ordinary. It was exactly what I paid for.

Here is my question for you, dear reader: Was that exceptional service?

Apparently the Sacramento gate crew would like me to think so. … Perhaps all of Delta would like me to think so.

Then I found this card with a snack bar attached to it:

It reads:

Thank you for choosing to fly Delta Air Lines from Sacramento!

We appreciate you giving us the opportunity to serve your travel needs!

If you receive a survey after your flight today our goal is to ensure that your experience in SMF is always a 5.

Begging for a Five-Star Rating

The Sacramento airport crew are jonesing for a five-star rating (five out of five). I suspect that most passengers will deliver on the request. And maybe I am simply being churlish to not go along with the request and the crowd.

After all, what’s the harm? And it might get the ground crew a raise or something.

And in a completely hypocritical fashion, when I speak at a conference, I want perfect fives. If I get marked down for anything, I feel crushed, which of course is really dumb and I am sure has some deep physiological meaning, or maybe it just means I am human.

Here Is My Problem With This Card

Five-star should mean exceptional service, not just delivering what I paid for and what I expected. It is not a five-star experience just because nothing went wrong.

Who Cares?

This is really important because if I as a consumer give a five, or your consumers give you a top of the scale rating, it suggests that it can’t be any better than delivering what was promised, paid-for and expected.

What Would Five Look Like? 

On that same flight, I was sleeping when they offered up meal choices, and so when they started handing out meals, all they had was a meat based dish … not very helpful for a vegetarian. I was hungry and mildly annoyed. He took the meat away and left a croissant and the fresh fruit, probably healthier for me anyway.

Then he offered me a couple more croissants, and I was completely satisfied.

After arriving at my destination I received an email with this subject line: “Your in-flight receipt from Delta Air Lines.” I was a bit puzzled since I knew I didn’t order anything, but when I opened the email, I discovered they had given me 2,500 miles for something I was not particularly upset about.

Here are some other things that would delight:

  • A driver at my layover city who would walk me down to the ramp and drive me to my next flight (this actually happened to me exactly one time)
  • Coffee, made just the way I like it, handed to me as I walked on the the plane
  • Singing, dancing gate agents or flight attendants
  • A coloring contest for kids on the plane
  • A contest for adults: picking the exact midway time of the trip
  • Anything that would surprise and delight
  • Donuts and coffee at the gate

Ordinary and Extraordinary 

I worry that in senior living and most of the world of business we have come to expect praise and accolades for simply delivering what was paid for. It makes it easier for the businesses because it provides a false sense of success.

What if every business, every senior living community, set out to do one big surprise and delight a month for residents, family members, team members — and if you want to really blow it out, a big surprise a month for every single team member’s family. It might be balloons delivered home just because, or pizza for the family, or movie tickets. … Go crazy thinking about it.

One more opportunity: What if you decided to create surprise and delight for every single senior living prospect?

There is so much opportunity here.