Humanities In Action | How Foreign Languages Paved My Career Path

This is the text of an article I wrote which was published in the Sunday Gleaner in Jamaica on 23 April 2017.

The article is one in a series sponsored by the University of the West Indies, highlighting the relevance and value of an education in the arts and humanities.


It came as no surprise when I told my parents that I wanted to study foreign languages at the University of the West Indies (UWI). My father, an educator specialising in physics and mathematics, and my mother, a career civil servant in the financial stream, always encouraged my sister and me to excel academically and develop our talents in a wide range of extra-curricular activities. They believed that this was how we would find out what we really wanted to do in life.

During my years at Immaculate Conception High School, I learnt foreign languages easily and excelled in history and English language and literature, where essays and term papers were frequently assigned. I was at ease meeting and speaking with foreigners in Jamaica, Europe, North America, and the Caribbean, and these experiences piqued my curiosity about foreign cultures and would later serve to complement my love of languages in a way that would benefit my career.

The sweeping social and political changes in the 1970s during my teenage years gave me the burning desire to ‘do something’ to change Jamaica and the world. By far, the best years of my life were spent at UWI, where I pursued a bachelor’s in language and linguistic studies. Like my batchmates, I was ‘in my element’ learning from an interesting mix of professors from Germany, France, Spain, El Salvador, Haiti, Colombia, and Guyana. In the course of study, we were required to research foreign and local issues and to express our opinions in all of the foreign languages we were studying. We were graded for accuracy in grammar and vocabulary as well as for depth of analysis and critical thinking.

I remember my father telling me that although it was important to master the foreign languages, it was even more important for me to master the skills of critical, innovative thinking, effective communication, and the ability to quickly adapt to new business situations in order to be a successful applicant for a job. I gained all this and more during my time in the BA programme at UWI.

Beyond the academic training, there were other experiences at the UWI that were to shape my view of the world and my career. Along with my classmates, I was deeply involved in organising student-exchange programmes with the Universidad AutÛnoma de Santo Domingo, French Students’ weekend retreats, German Days, Foreign Language Students’ concerts, lectures, and language club activities with visitors from various embassies in Kingston.

Immersed in a sea of intercultural experiences, our minds were opened to diverse political thought and philosophies. As much as we learnt about other cultures, we also taught others about our own.


Along the way, I met many people who questioned the value of studying foreign languages and an arts degree. Instead of trying to provide them with the ‘right’ answers, I actively and eagerly sought opportunities to put my training to work. I was a liaison aide at the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference and the Organization of American States General Assembly, which were hosted in Jamaica. I spent my summers as an intern at the Jamaica Tourist Board. Many people I met had studied the arts and humanities and told me how they had forged successful career paths in business, government, and international relations. I realised then that the options were many and that my proficiency in foreign languages gave me an advantage.

After university, I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade in the Protocol and Consular Division. There, I had the opportunity to translate official documents and serve as the interpreter in meetings with very senior officials. This is where I learnt about the main issues of the day in international politics, trade, travel, tourism, and law. I observed first hand how language and communication in all its forms played into business deal-making and international relations.

With this experience, I gladly accepted new challenges to serve in the Economic and Foreign Trade Divisions in the ministry and represent Jamaica at international conferences in the Caribbean and the Americas. I witnessed the emerging trends in globalisation and the increasing role of the private sector in international trade.

I decided to do an MBA in international business and marketing at the University of Miami, where at that time, the focus was on preparing a new generation of global business leaders. This degree opened doors to a career in the private sector in Jamaica and then in Montreal, Canada, where I currently reside. My academic training in languages at the UWI continues to be of great value. I communicate daily in French, which is the language of business in Montreal, the largest city in the French Canadian province of Quebec.

My desire as a teenager “to do something” for Jamaica and the world has morphed into a career in marketing in global institutions. In the various roles I have played, I have been involved in the creation of multilingual marketing communication programmes, international trade finance and credit-risk assessment, and the development of global brands, while managing teams of persons with diverse backgrounds.

Over the years, I have been, and still am, a committed volunteer, where my training in business and in the arts has been considered to be of added value. I currently serve on the board of directors of the YWCA-Montreal, an organisation whose clientele consists of a large number of immigrants who are being equipped to become fully integrated into the society. I have been invited to write articles and speak in English and French at churches to youth groups and professional associations, mainly on topics related to personal and professional development in a multicultural society.

In a world where technological innovation is held as the gold standard for progress, and where students are encouraged to pursue purely technical degree programmes, it should never be forgotten that technology is only valuable if it meets people’s needs. Often, my colleagues and business associates who do not have any formal training in the arts and humanities express appreciation for the broader perspectives and recommendations that I have brought to technical projects, particularly with regard to clients’ needs.

I truly believe that my foundation in the arts, more specifically the degree programme at the UWI, has led me take an analytic approach that presents diverse opinions and perspectives of various stakeholders, which is critical to understanding and successfully meeting clients’ needs.

With a career spanning more than 30 years in Jamaica, the USA, and Canada, I know that I will never retire. There is so much more work to be done to make the world a better place. I am truly grateful for the education in the arts, which has shaped my view of the world and has served to support all my professional pursuits. The knowledge gained and the skills that were honed in those early years are still relevant and of value in a changing world and will continue to equip me to contribute to building a truly integrated global village.

– This article is one in a series that seeks to promote and highlight the impact of the arts and humanities on the individual’s personal development and career path. Please send feedback to




See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.


How to Avoid Losses in Your Brand Equity – Hint: Invest in People, Including the CEO


The haters are having a field day on social media.  The over 3,000 followers of the I hate United Airlines Facebook page have every reason to be cheesed off.

There really is a disconnect between the airline’s renown brand messages – “Fly the friendly skies” and “We are United” – and everything the public has witnessed since April 9, when a passenger was removed from UAL flight 3411.

The video of the bloodied, screaming passenger being dragged off the aircraft and the reports that followed, have left the impression of an airline that is anything but friendly – that customers’ needs don’t count,  employees have no empathy and that the airline will solve problems in its own way.

According to the company’s website, United Airlines’ brand is “more than words on paper.  It is shaped by every aspect of (the) customer and co-worker experience.”  If this is true, should we assume that what happened on April 9 was an isolated incident?  Should we believe United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz’s statement three days later that the incident does not reflect “who our family at United is”?

Although we would like to consider that this was an isolated incident which does not define United Airlines, the behaviour of the CEO has led the public to believe otherwise.  The delayed response and initial statements of the CEO have reinforced his employees’ lack of empathy for clients in favour of operating procedures and demonstrates that there is a glaring gap between the customer experience and the United Airlines brand.    Here’s why:

The aftermath: United Airlines’ brand equity is depleted
In a television interview on April 12, Mr. Munoz said that he felt shame after seeing the viral video and stated that every passenger on the flight would be fully refunded.  Even though he also said that it’s never too late to do the right thing, it will take more than compensation to fix the damage.

It will be a long shot for United Airlines to restore confidence in its promise “to make to make every flight a positive experience for our customers.”  This is because its brand equity has been depleted.  Recent poll results indicate that the incident has adversely impacted the perception and preference for the United Airlines brand, potentially resulting in financial losses.

  • According to aMorning Consult poll that surveyed a national sample of 1,976 American adults, 79 percent of respondents who had heard about United’s recent news said they would choose a different airline if that airline — the poll specifically used American Airlines as a stand-in — offered an identical flight for the same price.
  • Among those respondents who hadn’theard of United’s troubles, only 51 percent would choose an American Airlines flight over an identical United flight, with 49 percent choosing United. The near-exact 50-50 split among respondents who haven’t been following the news about United indicates that the recent incidents have had a massive, polarizing effect on public perception of the airline among anyone who’s been paying attention to the news.

Those who are in charge of United Airlines’ marketing and public relations are best placed to explain if the incident and the subsequent statements are the result of misinformed or uninformed employees and CEO who don’t understand the true meaning of the company’s brand and how it ought to flow through to operations, customer service and communications.  These poll results are a reminder that brand equity losses have the potential to cancel out the fortune spent by Marketing departments and agencies on the careful crafting of brand definitions and deployment of brand strategies.

All areas of the organization play a role in brand credibility and equity

In many organizations Marketing is regarded as “the lipstick on the pig” – the stuff that makes for well-crafted, feel-good advertisements that mask the ugliness of complicated back-office operations and procedures that contribute to unfortunate customer experiences.

Very often the brand and brand promise are defined by Marketing, without connecting the dots to all areas of the business.  When this happens, the back-office is not configured to support the customer experience; customer-facing teams are ill-equipped to serve customers; budgets don’t get approved for investments in training, IT development and operational processes that ultimately impact the customer experience. This is how brands lose credibility and consequently, brand equity.

Brands build credibility and equity when all customer and public touch-points reflect an accurate understanding of customer needs and expectations.

With organizations having access to large amounts of data, customers are increasingly demanding more personalized service with the expectation that communications will be transparent and that customer convenience and needs will be prioritized in operating processes. The language used by corporate representatives at every level or the organization, whether to inform, communicate or react, has to be consistent with all that the company says that its brand stands for.

Invest in marketing programmes and in people

It is not enough for the C-suite to sign off on brand strategies and to be impressed by the number of ‘likes’ on social media and business leads generated by modern marketing technology.  Time and money must also be continually invested to train the C-Suite and all employees, to reinforce the connection between the organization’s brand, corporate values, client service and communication protocols.

Only time will tell if the United Airlines brand will recover from this disaster.  Real work has to start on the creation of a clearly defined brand, ensuring that everything the brand stands for prevails in every aspect of the airline’s operations and in the public’s perception of all its employees, including its most senior officers.

There is much to be learned and corrected by United Airlines.  This is also true for many other organizations.

See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important. 



3 Stumbling Blocks That Can Derail Your Job Search & How to Avoid Them


Several business people wander through a maze looking for a job

When I published the article “You’re hired!”…and it took me a year, I had no idea that I would be looking for work three years later.  Back then, I had just concluded an intensive search after my position in a stable, global financial institution was abolished, ending a successful career that progressed nicely over 16 years.

When I accepted the offer for a permanent full-time position the following year, it was not quite the dream job I was looking for, but I was convinced, and still am, that I was forging a new path to take me to the next level.  In fact, I deliberately disrupted myself.  It was a newly created job with the mandate to develop and deliver a marketing strategy for products I had never marketed before.

Two years in, there were budget and staff cutbacks.  I sub-consciously knew that the time to move on was fast approaching.   Last summer, my position was eliminated.

Although it’s cold comfort, I realize that I am not alone.  I’ve met many mid- and advanced-career professionals on the job search trail.  I see the struggles to remain positive, diffuse anxiety and stay the course.  My career transition experience has given me some insights on stumbling blocks that can potentially derail a job search and how to avoid them.

  1. Other people’s stories are theirs, not yours

During my networking, I’ve met many people who’ve “been there, done that” and they tell their stories of how they got through it.  The Winners, who took only 2 to 4 months to land on their feet; the Whiners who give very detailed explanations as to why they won’t ever get hired (age…, conspiring former bosses and colleagues…, no one hires in summer… etc.) and the Copped-Out & Lucked-Out who boast about the luxury of being able to retire early so they avoid looking for a job.

Then there are those who haven’t “been there.” They have never lost their jobs.  They are really Secretly Scared that this could happen to them, while they hint that they pity you and don’t envy you.  There are also the Helpers and Hinters who in an awkward effort to provide good advice, actually end up saying exactly what you don’t need to hear (“You’re doing something wrong, otherwise it wouldn’t take so long…”) or they send you job postings that are no match for your skills and experience.

It’s so easy to buy-in to other people’s stories.  Comparing your experience with other people’s stories is a waste of time and energy.  The truth is you need to own your story.

Instead of trying to explain your story, make a commitment to yourself to be clear on what’s best for you.  Only you can make sense of your life’s journey.  Only you really know the things that motivate you and ultimately matter to you.  Very few people will understand your story.  Most people are trying to figure out their own story and others don’t have the time or are not really interested in listening to yours.

The temptation to set low expectations and settle for less becomes real when you compare yourself with other people. It takes courage to say “no” to seemingly good opportunities in order to say “yes” to the very best.  You are not a loser if you haven’t found a job within a given timeframe or if you made it to the final interview but didn’t get the job.

Even if you don’t have the financial independence to prolong your search, if you accept a position out of necessity, remind yourself that you can work while continuing to search for your dream job.

  1. The corporate ladder is an obsolete metaphor

Job seekers, who have progressed over many years in one company, tend to be overly concerned with titles, organizational structures and status.  In most progressive organizations today, dotted lines, flat organizational structures and collaborative team environments are the norm.

I agree that people should look for challenging work that fits their experience and expertise.  But looking for a job with a title that fits into the next step on the corporate ladder can prevent you from finding enriching opportunities for meaningful work that expand your talents and capabilities.

The truth is that we are living in a new corporate world order where the corporate ladder is fast becoming an obsolete metaphor.

Sheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In, encourages professionals to forget the corporate ladder and consider careers in terms of a jungle gym. You can venture down different paths and explore numerous possibilities on the way to achieving your goals, just like trying to climb to the top of a jungle gym.  It took me quite some time to get this during my career transition four years ago.  I am glad I did, as I ended up finding an interesting opportunity which has broadened my experience not only professionally, but in my volunteer work and social life.

  1. Being stuck really sucks!

Following on my two earlier points, getting stuck can happen very easily if you can’t define what you want or if your definition of what you want doesn’t fit in the new corporate world order or with your values.

I’ve come across a few people who are stuck within a destructive ‘my way or the highway’ mindset, hanging on to what was and what will never be, taking job loss personally and feeling victimized.  When corporate priorities change, it so happens that some jobs are no longer needed. That’s why no one should take a layoff personally.

I know that it can be a drag to be out of work and pounding the pavement can be tough.  But here’s the upside:  going through a career transition can be the best opportunity to reorient a career.  On reflection, many people thank their lucky stars that they had the chance to move on, rather than stay stuck in a career that was no longer meaningful.

Most successful careers rarely ever follow a smooth, upward north-eastern trajectory.  Compromises and disruptions do occur along the way.  The truth is that compromises can be beneficial.

Speaking from my own experience, the job with a lower salary with less formal influence may just be what you need to gain more relevant experience in a changing world, while applying your past experience in a way that is beneficial to the organization and to your career in the long run.


Take ownership and responsibility for your career transition

The world is waiting to embrace talent and you have a fair shot to offer yours. Don’t let people, old ideas or a closed mind derail your job search.  The power to shape the future resides within each of us. That’s why it is important for every job seeker to take ownership of their career transition.

When you can clearly articulate to potential employers, who you really are and why you care, they will see that the value you bring to their organization is far greater than what you know and what they expect you to do.  This sets the stage for you to find meaningful work and for your future employer see you as a true partner, stakeholder and contributor to the organization’s success.


You may find the following articles helpful –

Career mistakes you must avoid@Deepak Chopra MD (Official)

Forget the Ladder; Try the Jungle Gym: What Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Says You Can Do for Your Career Right Now – Maggie Malon

It’s called a life, not a life sentence!  How to move forward when you’re feeling stuck@Michaela Alexis


Camille N. Isaacs Morell is a proven marketing strategy and business development enabler. She is passionate about inspiring people to make decisions that support business success.  

She currently seeks opportunities to contribute to the success of enterprises and non-profit organizations with direct responsibility for developing the marketing strategy to support business development and stakeholder engagement.

See the BIG picture…Focus on what’s important

3 Wrong Reasons to Sponsor Trade Shows & 3 Right Reasons Why You Should


  • What if you knew that half the attendees at an important trade show were first timers?

Wouldn’t you consider this show as an ideal opportunity to reach out to these new attendees and add them to your new business leads list?

  • And what if over three quarters of executive decision-makers said that they asked for a price quotation from at least one supplier at the trade show?

I bet that you would definitely make the business case to invest in a high-profile sponsorship with a range of entitlements that would make your brand so visible that your booth would be a hub for potential customers.

Trade shows have traditionally served as key meeting places for buyers and sellers of all kinds.  Vendors are encouraged to invest thousands of dollars in sponsorship packages offering brand visibility, exhibit space, and various opportunities to connect with potential buyers.

But as Forrester Research points out, in this Age of the Consumer, technology empowers customers, who now control when and where they buy, and increasingly that’s not in a store.  I would add, and maybe that’s not at a trade show.

While I am not suggesting that marketers withdraw support for trade shows, I caution against using three commonly cited reasons to justify investing in trade show sponsorships –

  1.  “We’ll be conspicuous by our absence.”

Ask yourself, “What is the real reason for sponsoring the event?”

What if, as a result of changes in the business environment or your company’s business strategy, your company has shifted its focus to another market segment or has dropped a product line, or has been presenting the same message to the same audience year after year at that show?

If any of these reasons is true, your participation may be irrelevant to the  92% of attendees who go to trade shows to see and learn about what’s new in products and services. 

By reducing or withdrawing your company’s investment in the show, you may in fact be sending the right message to the market about your positioning and business focus, which may not be a good fit for the trade show and its attendees.

  1.  “We get a chance to showcase our expertise and our products.”

Whether the opportunity involves doing a presentation, moderating a panel discussion or doing product demonstrations in a booth on the exhibition floor, chances are that you’ll only be able to reach a subset of the attendee population at the show.

In reality, when podium positions are secured, presenters are prohibited from promoting their solutions or products.  Furthermore, attendees spend very limited time on the show floor, as the time allotted is generally 15-30-minute breaks between conference sessions, possibly two times during the day.

  1.  “We’ll definitely generate sales at the show.”

I’ll be cautious here, as admittedly, there are times when sales are made at trade shows.

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research reports that 46% of executive decision-makers made purchase decisions while attending a trade show.  But that’s less than half of the attendees with purchase decision-making authority. It’s not clear what percentage of those purchase decisions leads to sales transactions.

To state that sales will be generated at the show is plausible only if it can be proven that there is a significant proportion of the attendee population comprised of decision-makers and that you know who they are, where they are at in the buying cycle and that you know how to contact them during the event.

Consider these facts

The 2015 Exhibit Survey’s Trade Show Benchmarks indicate that trade shows are still important venues for business development.

  • 38% of attendees indicate that visiting exhibits influences purchase intent
  • Over the past five years, approximately half of all trade show attendees have consistently reported that they plan to buy products, solutions and technologies they see exhibited within 12 months after the event.

These facts also tell us that new business is developed and secured over an extended period of time and not on the trade show floor.  We can conclude that trade shows do have a place in the mix of on-going marketing programmes.

The relative importance of trade shows to the business development process should be the guiding principle that determines whether or not to invest in trade show sponsorships and if so, what the appropriate investment should be. 

Here are three key questions, which, when plausibly answered, can support the business case to invest in trade shows.

  1.  Why attend?

The reason for sponsoring the show is aligned with the company’s business objectives.

This can be done by scoring the company’s agreed on and established trade show selection criteria.

Important selection criteria include the attendee population, conference theme, content, event reputation, uniqueness of the opportunity, cost and value, timing and availability of key staff and attendees.

Each criterion should be assigned a weighted score according to its relative importance to the company’s business objectives and priorities.  For example, if the priority is to enter a niche market segment, higher weights should be assigned to the attendee population and uniqueness of the trade show.

  1.  Who will attend?

The trade show provides the opportunity for direct contact with target clientele who are also in the target audience of the company’s on-going marketing programmes.

The 2015 Exhibit Survey’s Trade Show Benchmarks clearly point to the need to engage in pre-event, on-site and on-going communication and marketing programmes to drive new business.  Investing and participating in trade shows, like any other business investment, should be part of an integrated programme of marketing communications and business development tactics that consistently reach out to a defined target clientele over an extended period of time.  That’s how companies build an engaged, loyal clientele.

  1. What’s really in it for the company?

The sponsorship entitlements create new assets for the company.

To be of value, the sponsorship investment ought to provide the company with assets that can be leveraged to build contacts and relationships so as to generate new business over time.  Some examples include access to attendee lists, bonus distribution of white papers to attendees, on-site opportunities to host or attend invitation-only events.


See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.

Why Customer Service is killing your Marketing plan and how to stop it



As marketing continues to evolve, there’s no shortage of articles, research and blogs giving advice on data analytics, engagement tactics, content marketing.  Marketers read voraciously to find solutions to ensure that marketing programs contribute to new and incremental revenues and to the pipeline of qualified leads.  Effective marketing automation and performance metrics are the highly regarded hallmarks of success.

Although performance metrics can tell us about past performance, the single determinant of success is, and has always been, the consistent delivery of the brand promise throughout the customer’s journey. 

Giving the customer what he expects is everything 

One bad customer experience can be amplified in a nanosecond through social media and damage a brand’s reputation, undermining the investment in marketing programs. 

Recent experiences with a fender bender, having my old smart phone replaced and finding my lost luggage, have given me some valuable insights on how companies are either hitting or missing the mark when it comes to delivering on the brand promise.

It came as no surprise when I read in the 2016 Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council’s Predicting Routes to Revenue Report that

Only 16 percent of marketers feel that their organizations are delivering customer experiences that truly fulfill their brand promises, while two-thirds (66 percent) say their efforts in this area are hit or miss, and 14 percent say they are completely missing the mark.

Return to marketing fundamentals

The CMO Council’s finding points to the need to return to marketing fundamentals – the why, what and how products and services should meet the needs and expectations of the customer.  Every marketer knows that the brand promise is what the customer can expect in his interaction with the brand.

So why is there a disconnect between the customer experience and the brand promise?

In my view, very often the brand promise is defined by Marketing, but it is not understood by other areas of the business.  The back-office is not configured to support the customer experience; customer-facing teams are ill-equipped to serve customers; budgets don’t get approved for investments in training, IT development and operational processes that ultimately impact the customer experience.

The real answers to the why, what and how questions, can’t be just be statements of Marketing’s pipe dream, nor should they be the responsibility of some other area of the business.

The answers require deep understanding and insight into customers’ needs and their motivation to purchase, which may not be as straightforward or as obvious as is commonly taken for granted. 

Why is there a demand for your product or service?

Like it or not, a well-crafted end-product or service may really only be a means to an end for the customer.  For example, travellers use airlines to get to the family reunion or to the once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation destination.  Delay or lose the passenger’s luggage and the family reunion or the dream vacation is ruined.  Back-office operations that send an automated e-mail promising a response in 3 days, and a CSR who tells the customer that the “system is still searching for your bag” fully discredit the brand promise to “provide the best service possible.”

What is the fundamental problem has to be solved for the customer?

The perceived need that is being fulfilled may in fact be secondary.  The person whose car was damaged obviously needs to have it repaired.  But the real problem is the inconvenience of being without a car and the hassle of making alternative travel arrangements while the car is being repaired.  Armed with this insight, the promise of “personalized service for each guest” translates to a simplified sign-up process and flexible return schedule for the rented car replacement on top of a first-class repair job.  The combined work of the body shop’s Repair Services and Administration teams adds up to an A-grade score from a delighted customer, who then becomes a brand advocate.

How does the client want to be served?

And so what if you have a leading-edge product?  The average consumer doesn’t deeply understand (and doesn’t want to deeply understand) the technical features of many products they use on a daily basis.  Advertising the hi-tech features of smart phones won’t buy customers’ loyalty. The promise to provide the “best possible customer experience…treating the customer the way we would want to be treated” is really about ensuring that the customer’s experience is delivered on the customer’s terms.  What really matters is easy access to personalized service when and where the customer wants and needs it, delivered by tech-savvy customer service professionals.

The BIG picture

Empowered with information, customers are driving the way business is done.  That said, there has to be a common understanding of the brand promise and a common view of how the brand promise will be delivered through interdependent relationships throughout the organization.  This, in my view, is the BIG picture.

Focus on what’s important

What’s really important is the consistent gathering of customer insights that is used to validate the brand promise and where necessary, adjust every aspect of business operations ensuring alignment with customer expectations. In practical terms, this means that organizations must do 3 things –

  1. Dedicate specialist resources to gather and analyse data on customer behaviour,
  2. Avoid analysis paralysis by requiring the delivery of actionable recommendations, and
  3. Commit to drive change in every area of the business so that the customer experience matches the brand promise.


See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.


3 Things Airlines Shouldn’t Lose with their Passengers’ Luggage

Lost Luggage

For fourteen days I was without my suitcase.  When the airline finally delivered my suitcase, it was exactly fourteen hours before my flight back to Canada. This happened on my Christmas vacation in Jamaica.

It was frustrating to go through this experience as a customer.  As a marketer, I observed firsthand how a negative customer experience can undermine the hard work and investment in the company’s marketing program.

Disconnect between Marketing and Customer Experience

The philosophy of the airline’s founders – that just because you pay less for your flight, doesn’t mean you should get less – appeals to many travellers who are looking for the same or better service at lower cost than competing airlines.  The advertising slogan – Owners care – means that the employee-owners have a vested interest in the success of the airline, so that passengers will be treated well.

In the first few days of this ordeal, I wandered through a maze of standard verbal and automated responses, I resorted to sending Tweets and e-mails to senior leaders of the airline and I blew a gasket when the airline sent me the wrong suitcase on day 6.

Ironically, it was a contract worker who showed an impressive level of care that made me believe that the ordeal would come to a happy ending.

On Christmas Eve as I was preparing to go out to celebrate, the luggage delivery service’s driver called at 10:00 p.m. to say that he was two hours away.  He said that he didn’t want me to miss my celebration event and emphasized that he was committed to delivering my suitcase wherever I was and whenever it was convenient for me.

Personas, Processes, Predictability

Throughout the experience, it was clear to me that there were serious gaps in customer service, employee empowerment, operations and communication.  In my view, the shortcomings in all of these areas seriously undermined the airline’s marketing program in three ways –

  • There are some segments in the client population whose personas and needs were not understood;
  • The operations processes didn’t address the customer’s needs; and
  • The employees’ actions were not consistently aligned with the corporate values and culture.

I offer the following recommendations on how to prevent these shortcomings –

1. Clearly define and understand the personas of a diverse passenger clientele

Although Canadian-based airlines may consider Jamaica as a vacation destination, not all passengers are Canadian tourists.  A large number of airline passengers in winter are Canada-based Jamaicans returning ‘home’ on vacation.  These passengers have very different personas from Canadian tourists ‘going south’ for a winter vacation.

Admittedly, it is challenging to craft marketing messages and to provide a consistent client experience when a diverse clientele is using the same service.  Gaining a detailed understanding of various customer personas should be the first priority.  Armed with this understanding, it is likely that airlines will be well placed to develop appropriate service levels, effective operational processes and prepare employees to ensure that every client has a satisfying travel experience.

2.  Ensure processes to remedy problems are focused in customers’ needs

A passenger feels stranded when his luggage is lost or delayed.  What’s worse is when an automated e-mail promises a response within 3 to 5 business days.   A stranded passenger doesn’t care about the airline’s logistical constraints and system limitations.

Operational processes are only efficient if they meet the customer’s needs in a timely manner.

Even if it takes an extended period of time to solve a problem, in the interim, the customer needs to be kept informed of the status of the problem and be made to feel confident that every effort is being made by real people – not a computer system or some convoluted process – to solve the problem.

3.  Train employees to deliver a predictable and consistent customer experience

Fun, friendly and caring – these are among the airline’s stated corporate values that are said to flow through to the corporate culture and customer experience.  I can only agree that all of the airline’s staff in Canada, in-flight and in Jamaica were fun, friendly and caring when everything was working well.

All employees – both on the front lines and behind the scenes – ought to understand how to act in ways that are consistent with the brand promise and how their actions influence customer perceptions and corporate success.  In practical terms, this means that employees should be trained to communicate effectively when problems arise.  As well, employees should be empowered to manage risk and take remedial action on the spot before bad situations get worse.

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.

Companies should not lose sight of the big picture, which is that customers are the cause of business. Their needs come first!

Every area of the organization ought to focus on ensuring that the customer experience does not undermine the company’s marketing plans.

Post Script –

  • The only items of clothing in my other suitcase that did arrive with me at the beginning of my vacation were my exercise outfit and my swimsuit! So I did get a chance to work out my angst and to relax at the beach during my two-week vacation.
  • Do you want to know the name of the airline?  I’m not telling.
    • The airline has made every effort to settle my claim fairly and the senior leadership have said that they take my feedback very seriously.

I really believe that remedial action will be taken.

That’s why I am pretty sure that I will have a positive experience when next I fly with this airline.  I certainly hope that you will too!


See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important. 



These 3 KPIs May Get Your Marketing Budget Approved


There is a growing awareness of the important role Marketing must play in all areas of business.   But this doesn’t mean that it’s getting any easier for CMOs to gain the CFO’s nod of approval for marketing budgets.

Ask any CEO or CFO what they really care about when marketing budgets are being approved.  The answer always boils down to having measurable proof that marketing activities are contributing to revenue generation and profitability.

While no one would disagree that brand awareness and reputation are essential for business success and should be measured, many marketers are struggling to find the right metrics to justify their budgets.

Three key performance indicators of revenue generation and profits that are likely to get marketing budgets approved are  demand generation, acquisition of new clients and profitability of retaining current clients.

To deliver programmes that can be measured by these KPIs, Marketing has to work closely with other departments, particularly Sales and Client Service. There has to be a clear understanding of Marketing’s role to define where Marketing’s accountability begins and ends and to appropriately assign KPI metrics.

When setting KPI benchmarks, it is important to separate and measure the contribution of each Department involved –

  1. Demand generation programmes are generally based on calls to action through direct and indirect marketing activities. Not every lead that is generated results in a sale.  KPI benchmarks assigned to Marketing should measure the number of leads as well as the percentage of qualified leads.
  2. Although new client acquisition is the primary responsibility of Sales, the cost of acquiring clients involves the preparation of advertisements, collateral and quotation material and product /service enhancements require investment of time and resources from Marketing and possibly the IT, Operations and Customer Services Departments. The Marketing KPI benchmark should be based on the number of clients acquired as a direct result of a marketing lead generation programme.
  3. Profitability of retaining current clients generally requires the joint effort of key areas of the business such as Client Services and Marketing to retain, upsell and effectively service the client. The benchmark for this KPI should be directly related to Marketing budgets required to develop promotional programmes and on-going communications that engage current clients and support up-selling and cross-selling.

The trends in the metrics should be tracked and analysed on an on-going basis to determine how best to allocate future budgets and to adjust marketing strategies to optimize business results.

Click on the table below to see a suggested framework for setting KPI metrics.



See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.