Birthday In The Sky – Customer Service Story


Professionals in the service industry need some inspiration from time to time. Stories about everyday heroes going beyond their job specifications to make a customer happy are always packed with learning points and practical examples of what going above and beyond to deliver service should look and feel like. I recently stumbled upon this customer service story by industry professional Jenny Dempsey on the customer service life website. It’s a tale about a flight attendant and how she put in a little extra to give an 11-year-old girl a birthday memory she would not forget in a hurry.

On my afternoon Southwest flight from Nashville to San Diego, we were about 30 minutes from landing.

The Flight Attendant flips on the intercom and speaks in an excited voice, “We have a very special guest on this flight today! Jocelyn is turning 11 and we’re going to help her celebrate.”

She continues, “Here’s how we’ll do this – everyone, if your window is open, please close it. Then, please press the Attendant Notification light above your aisle seat. These will be our candles!”

Surprisingly, everyone on the plane follows her lead. The lights go dim with the closed windows. The dinging of the Attendant Notification light bounces around the plane. Blue lights line the ceiling of the walkway.

“Now, let us sing Happy Birthday and once we’re done, we’ll give Jocelyn a few moments to make a wish. When she lets us know what she has made her wish, she will blow out the candles and we’ll all turn off our Attendant Notification lights. On the count of 3…1, 2, 3…”

Every passenger sings happy birthday to Jocelyn, sitting toward the end of the plane. At the end of the song, we pause until she says she’s done with her wish. Then, everyone claps.

I was incredibly impressed with this simple, creative way to wish someone happy birthday on a flight.

They could have easily let this go with just recognition from a Flight Attendant and an extra pack of Oreos. But no, this Southwest Flight Team took it to the next level and gave this little girl a birthday experience she’ll never forget. In fact, I’ll never forget it. It also gave every single passenger a smile on their face right before landing in beautiful San Diego.

The next time you’re feeling out of creative ideas to enhance the customer experience, look around you and work with what you have. A little goes a long, long way.

The flight attendant was able to create a special memory for not just the little girl and her family, but everyone onboard the flight that day, simply by putting in more than was expected. The little girl and her family and some of those passengers would have shared this experience with someone. That’s positive word of mouth and more brand awareness for Southwest.

Delighting your customers doesn’t have to be rocket science, sometimes all you need is to put in a little more energy and passion in doing the things you already do.

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Kelechi Okeke

Kelechi Okeke is a Customer Experience Analyst in a leading financial institution in sub-Saharan African. He helps businesses develop strategies that improve customer loyalty and enhance profitability. He is also a customer service trainer, content developer and graphic designer