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Customer feedback, one smiley face at a timeCustomer feedback, one smiley face at a time

What if you could get almost instantaneous feedback from your customers on how well your flight school is performing?

Customer service is a driving force at San Carlos Flight Center in San Carlos, California, which was named Best Flight School in the 2013 Flight Training Excellence Awards. SCFC owner Dan Dyer has discovered a tool that not only captures feedback but also sends a message to clients that SCFC cares about their experience.

The tool is called Happy or Not. It’s used extensively in retail by companies such as Microsoft, McDonald’s, eBay, Ikea, and American Express. In fact, if you’ve recently traveled through the Orlando Executive Airport you may have seen a Happy or Not terminal with a simple question along the lines of “How was your passenger experience?” You can hit one of four buttons, depending on your answer. (Keeping it simple, two green buttons show a smiley face; a pink and a red button show a frowny face.)

The wireless terminals can be programmed with any type of question, and Dyer said crafting that question “is a type of art form.”

“You have to figure out the right way to ask it,” he said.

For instance, SCFC’s Happy or Not will ask questions about its front-desk staff. “Were you treated professionally?” For the maintenance department: “Were you responded to in a timely fashion?” To gauge reaction on SCFC’s many monthly social events: “How happy were you with our flyout group adventures and activities?” For CFIs: “Does your flight instructor manage your training path in a friendly, professional way?” For rental aircraft: “Was your aircraft clean, in good condition, and stocked with supplies?”

SCFC gets about 200 responses a month, Dyer said.

Happy or Not collects and measures the data for each business, but Dyer said he thinks the message that each question sends is more important than the actual data. “It tells my [customers] we care, we want to know, we want to get better,” he said. The tool also communicates to the staff that they’re being evaluated on their performance, he added.

“It’s very important symbolically,” Dyer said. “It’s a great way to rally everybody around the same thing: We really are trying to be good at what we’re doing.”

Happy or Not subscribers purchase the terminal and pay a monthly fee for the service, Dyer said. For SCFC, it’s “well within the realm of affordable,” he said. Happy or Not also offers a “website smiley” that can be incorporated into a business web page. See the website for additional information.

Jill W. Tallman is editor of Flight School Business.

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.

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