My daughter had a recent interaction with no-frills Spirit Airlines.  It didn’t go well.  The short story: Tampa to Chicago by way of Dallas.  Mechanical delay in Dallas, very poor communications to waiting passengers at the gate, eventual cancellation of the flight after further delays, and a sorry-for-your-trouble $7 airport meal voucher and offer to refund airfare and return passengers to their originating point — the next day.

Granted, glitches are a common, expected occurrence for those of us who frequent the skies.  But — and, I don’t know this for sure – I imagine Spirit Airlines is in the business of generating a profit by efficiently and safely moving passengers from point A to point B.  If they had done so in this case, all would be right in the world for those 100+ would-be passengers and they’d likely be repeat customers.  Spirit Airlines’ customers no doubt understand the “no-frills” part of their agreement with the carrier when they buy their cheap ticket.  So, nothing was really expected of the airline beyond getting those customers from place to place.  But, even given the expectation for only that most basic service, Spirit failed.  And considering all the other customer service-related opportunities they botched in this one small incident, management (I”m talking to you, Mr. Sr VP/COO hanging out at the Miramar FL headquarters) should be ashamed.

Which led me to this simple truth for any business: if you just do what you’re supposed to do — even at its most basic level — you’re well on your way to business success.  And if you can’t, for whatever reason, bend over backwards to somehow make it ok for your customers.  Sounds simple, but many of your competitors — and maybe even your own business — could do a better job of this.  And then, when you add small things that make a customer’s experience with your basic product or service even better, you’ll be king of the hill.

I recently stopped by a local restaurant for a late Friday night dinner.  The hours posted on the front door indicated they closed at 10pm.  I was in good shape as it was only 9:15.  Wrong.  As I tried to open the door, a staff member inside the place just stared at me through the door and waved me off, pointing to her watch as she did so.  The last thing I wanted was to force the issue and have someone add an unpleasant secret ingredient to my meal, so I shrugged and moved on, albeit disappointed.  Will I ever be back?

Become a master at what you’re in business to do.  At its most basic form this is about customer service — and adopting a mentality that each customer you service is the last possible customer you can ever have.  You’ll be surprised how much further ahead you’ll be, how customer loyalty increases, how referral business grows, and how easy it is to layer in differentiating features and services to what you do.

Sadly, there are many companies like Spirit Airlines, and they come and go all the time.  Learn from their shameful actions and your business will be around for the long haul.