How fast can you make time go

There are many anecdotes of Southwest Airlines’ legendary customer service. Here’s another one, one that left me with an interesting realization.

The events:
It’s an evening flight from LAS to SFO. Most people on board are surely going back home (it’s a weekend flight from Vegas after all!), and can’t wait to call it a day. The flight has already been delayed 45 minutes when we finally board. As we wait to take off, minutes turn into, well, more minutes.

At this point the aforementioned legendary Southwest customer service kicks in. One of the cabin crew gets on the loudspeaker and explains (with the expected dose of humor) the cause of the delay and how much longer it might take, also mentioning that it wasn’t Southwest’s fault.

But he didn’t stop there. He proceeded to start a quizzing game with the passengers, declaring free drinks as prizes for getting right answers. We were down about five or so questions before the plane was ready to take off. Here’s what made it memorable: he empathized with his customers, making self-deprecating jokes about air travel, and even a few good natured ones at the expense of the audience. Lastly, he ended by saying: “and that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you make time go by really fast”.

Two things that stood out for me from this:

1. Customer experience stems from culture. If your customers are interacting with your product, it’s your job to make them feel good about it. People will remember how they felt, not what they got. Over multiple interactions and experience, this feeling accrues and drives “stickiness” or loyalty. It’s easier said than done because your organization needs this most while handling exceptions and exceptions are rarely well defined procedurally. The only way is to have it be ingrained in your culture.

2. Make time go by quickly. How fast time seems to pass is an excellent measure of quality of the experience. If your weekend felt like it zipped past, you must have enjoyed it. If using your product or service doesn’t feel like a chore, you are succeeding along a very important dimension. That feeling will turn into customer loyalty over repeated use.

Perception of time is a symptom of delight, and tells you whether you’ve created something that hooks users. It’s the main thing you should try to assess — for all interactions.