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Want an FBO Customer for Life? Try Making the Customer Your Fan

By Ron Jackson

Being a fan doesn't mean being there from the start. It means being there ‘till the end.

It’s time for a role reversal in the FBO customer service industry.

Ever since the term “customer service” was first used, our corporate view has been to put the customer on a pedestal and do everything to make them happy. That’s all fine and dandy, as Forrest Gump would say, but it’s a rather dogmatic and reactive approach that can make your customer relationship fragile and leave your employees feeling frustrated.

Here’s something new to think about. It’s a complete role reversal. Instead of you and your team thinking the customer is king, invite the customer to think of your employees the way we think of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Hank Aaron and Cal Ripkin, Jr. There isn’t a red blooded American alive that doesn’t look upon these four with awe. We are their fans.

Baseball not your sport? Think of someone you truly admire for doing something extraordinary. That’s being a fan.

So, why not create an environment at your FBO where the customer becomes your fan!

It’s really a new mindset that takes place in in the process of molding your customer service deliverable. Let’s start by visiting an old axiom, “Go the extra mile?” Where did this come from, and what does it really mean?

It’s actually biblical in nature. During the height of the Roman Empire, a soldier could force someone to carry his backpack one mile. Think how heavy pack must have been? It contained everything a soldier would need while marching for possibly months-on-end. Perhaps a change of clothes, probably food, knapsack and extra spear heads, among other things.

In those days, it was the law. However, it also was forbidden to force someone to carry the pack for more than one mile.

In the biblical account of Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaims if someone forces you to go one mile, go with them two. A modern day interpretation of this verse is to do the unexpected and go the extra mile. Give them something extra, something not required.

In the FBO business, we often see customers come onto our ramps and not purchase any fuel - not even a courtesy load. I’m sure this upsets most FBO managers and their service team.

So, how can we change the mindset of the customer? How can we catch them off-guard and give them something unexpected - something to ponder?

In other words, how can we invite them into experiencing our best customer service?

Can you imagine what would go through a reluctant customer’s mind when you offer to take out their trash, put ice in their galley or clean their lavatory – for free?

“But why would you want to do that?” the customer might ask. “I’m not buying any fuel.”

“I know!” your line service person responds. “That’s just how we do business here at Ajax. Now, how about some fresh brewed coffee for your galley?”

If the customer doesn’t respond with a fuel purchase at this point, chances are a fuel order will be placed the next time they return.

It’s all part of making the customer your fan by going the extra mile. It’s an open invitation to keep doing business with you and make an indelible impression that won’t fade anytime soon.

In today’s social networking climate, chances are that customer will tell others about their experience at your FBO. On the ‘buzz meter’, I think we all would rate this as priceless!

This is just an example of going the extra mile with a reluctant customer. What about the regular customer? What can you do to go the extra mile and make the next fueling a memorable experience? I’m sure you can think of a few things.

As mentioned, it’s all a change of mindset on the part of your employees. You may need to conduct some team-building exercises that help create a culture that rewards them for doing a good job. However, the reward is not monetary. It should be something as simple as a pat on the back from both FBO management and other team members.

At Aviation Business Strategies Group, the discovery work we do with clients indicates that most employees aren’t looking for money or prizes in order to do a better job. What they are really looking for is recognition.

“That was the best galley service I’ve ever seen,” an FBO manager might say to a line service technician. “Way to go. Keep up the good work.”

At Aviation Business Strategies Group, we’ve developed a complete FBO customer service training system called “Don’t Forget the Cheese!” It’s memorable program that can help mold and change current company culture, including your employee team dynamics.

If you’d like some more ideas about making the customer your fan, please give me a call at 972-979-6566 or e-mail me at

Also, please join me and business partner John Enticknap for our next NATA FBO Success Seminar, September 12-14 in Dallas, Texas. In addition, we’ll be hosting a NATA Webinar on June 28 titled: The Most Important Question to Ask a Customer.

About the authors:

Ron Jackson
Ron Jackson is Co-Founder of Aviation Business Strategies Group and President of The Jackson Group, a PR agency specializing in FBO marketing and CSR training. He has held management positions with Cessna Aircraft and Bozell Advertising and is the author of “Mission Marketing: Creating Brand Value” and co-author of “Don’t Forget the Cheese!” the ultimate FBO Customer Service Experience. Ron co-developed NATA’s acclaimed FBO Success Seminar Series and writes an industry blog for titled: The FBO Connection. 

John Enticknap
John Enticknap founded Aviation Business Strategies Group in 2006 following a distinguished career in aviation fueling and FBO management, including President of Mercury Air Centers network of 21 FBO locations. He is an ATP and CFI rated pilot with more than 7,800 flight hours and is the author of “10 Steps to Building a Profitable FBO”. John developed NATA’s acclaimed FBO Success Seminar Series and writes an industry blog for titled: The FBO Connection.

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