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I Swear That I Will Never be Swayed by Leather Seats Again

In this article founder and director of CsCx Consultancy and Training, Chris Butcher, explains how a customer’s perception is their reality...

Some years ago, I needed to travel to Dusseldorf to visit my employer’s German office for the first time. Two airlines – BA and Lufthansa flew there. Prices, flight times and reputations all seemed similar so I asked colleagues which airline they used and why. To be honest, that didn’t help to separate them much until one colleague mentioned that Lufthansa had leather seats. That tipped the balance for me. I booked my flights with Lufthansa.

The outward flight was fine. The service was OK, neither great nor awful as far as I can remember, but the leather seats looked great.

On the flight back to Heathrow, things were much the same. Nothing especially memorable but a pleasant enough flight. Apart from the landing.

Having descended smoothly from 35000 feet we were over the runway, maybe 20 feet off the ground when, or so it seemed to me, the pilot decided that was good enough. He dropped the plane hard and we bounced along the runway a number of times. Many of us screamed, fearing we were crashing. Those beautiful leather seats did nothing to reduce the force of the repeated impacts.

Thankfully we came to a halt and taxied to the terminal. Pretty shaken up, we began to leave the aircraft. As we walked along the tunnel, we looked out of the windows towards the cockpit. The pilot was, in full view of his 300+ passengers (customers), creased up with laughter as he watched us leave.

An RAF veteran recently explained to me, in some detail, why the landing might have been bumpy and enthusiastically defended the pilot’s flying skills. Something about low level turbulence, apparently. That, however, misses the point. I’ve flown enough to know that landings can sometimes be bumpy. Normally, the pilot announces an apology and gives an explanation. That’s fine.

What was, however, inexcusable on this flight, was the lack of an apology and clear hilarity. The face of that pilot has stayed with me long after the rest of my memory of the flight has faded. In customer service terms, the customer’s perception is their reality. And their perception depends on you.

The well-respected Business Insider’s report has shown that it takes 12 positive experiences to overcome one bad experience. Lufthansa won’t get the opportunity to give me those 12 good experiences – the pilot’s behaviour has already cost them my custom. That’s a heck of an expensive moment of ‘fun’, especially if any of my fellow passengers ‘voted with their feet’ too, as I suspect they did.

So the question is – what happens when something goes wrong in your business? What do your customers perceive? Is one of your team a ‘pilot’ who acts inappropriately and creates lasting, negative memories for your customers? Or do they apologise quickly and do all they can to share and resolve the customer’s concerns, turning it into an opportunity to impress the customer?

It only takes a moment to get it wrong – but negative memories can so easily be avoided!

To find out how CsCx can help you retain customers and grow your business by providing an exceptional customer experience and memorable service, email, call 01793 272383 or visit

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