An Essential Step to Building Customer Loyalty: Hire for Brand Fit

I was on an internal flight in the US.

Meal time. The flight attendant was ready to serve me my meal.

I pointed to a meal choice and asked her, “Is this nice?”

She looked at me and said, “I don’t know. I don’t eat airline food”. She said it with a hint of disdain for the very food that she was serving to passengers.

My heart sank.

In the language of the branded customer experience, this response was Off-Brand.

If I was in a restaurant, I would have expected the wait-person to give me an enthusiastic response. “Yes, sir, this is a popular dish among our guests!”. That would give me confidence to order the dish.

Going back to 36,000 feet above the earth, the flight attendant could have said something honest like, “I’ve observed our passengers heartily eating this dish – why don’t you try it?”

I found myself focusing my attention on the flight attendant as she moved around the cabin and interacted with passengers. She did not smile. She did not show any level of human touch to the people that she was serving. People on the plane were treated as objects to be served, and she was just providing the arms and legs to do the serving.

There was one thing missing – her heart.

Why People Are The Way They Are

So, here’s a question for you.

Why do you think that the flight attendant behaved as she did?

One reason could be that the person in charge of the flight crew was a poor manager. Maybe that person put her in a bad mood

Or, perhaps the flight attendant lacks emotional resilience. She might have had a difficult passenger before me – and was having a hard time to bounce back. Perhaps. And, if that’s the case, she could be given emotional resilience skills.

I will never know for certain whether our interaction was the result of an attitude, a boss, or an emotional resilience issue.

But, for some reason, I believe that the issue was she was the wrong person for the job.

Not only was she robotic, she was also not quite on the nice side. I didn’t feel good having her around.

All I do know is that this person was engaging in Off-Brand behaviours. She was not building customer loyalty one passenger at a time. Rather, she was catching the attention of people like me – for the wrong reasons.

Hiring Is Never Easy – Finding The Right Fit Is Challenging

Some people are just not suited to being in customer-facing positions. They may be on the intra-verted side –  contact with people de-energises them. So, concentrated contact with people over a period leads to a depletion of energy – a depletion of patience, a depletion of smiles and so on!

It’s not that they are not nice people. It’s just that they are not suited to jobs requiring intensive contact with people.

The issue from the airline’s point of view is that this results in a depletion in customer loyalty.

Delivering positive customer experiences rely on the people delivering them.

The starting point is in the hiring process. Hire people for brand fit.

What does your brand stand for? What is the image that it is seeking to project to the public? Getting to first base in the game of business will require that you hire the right people.

Zappos, the online retailer, has become renowned for its attention to hiring the right people. It pays new hires $2,000 to leave the company if they do not think that this is the job or the company for them. Zappos says that this is a great investment in good customer service – it helps to ensure that the right people stay on to serve customers (and, it takes quite a lot to be chosen to be a new hire in the process!).

Compare that with a company that I came across in Malaysia. Call centre employees were put through extensive training. They were held to a substantial bond, that meant if they left within a specified period of time, they would have to pay a significant amount of money to the company. The company’s rationalisation was, “We need to get a return on investment from the training that we provided for this person.”

The impact was that there were people who had decided that they did not want to work in this company or in the contact centre – but they were “forced” to do so, because they could not afford to repay the bond.

What impact do you think that this would make on the quality of service that these people provided? Not that good, is my guess.

So, here’s the simple message.

If you want to deliver a great customer experience, hire for brand fit. And, have a “Plan B” just in case you have hired the wrong people – make it easy for them to decide to leave.

Sounds almost too simple, doesn’t it? Yes, but it’s not always easy.

Until next time.


George Aveling is the Australian-born CEO of TMI Malaysia (, a global customer-experience transformation consultancy. He is CEO of two sister companies, TACK International Malaysia, a global leadership and sales training company, and Elementrix, a digital learning consultancy. TMI and TACK have offices in 45 countries of the world. Between these companies, there is an unparalleled range of intellectual property to improve individual, team and company performance. If you would like to contact George direct, feel free to email him at

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