Many of us have had unpleasant experiences while flying, especially during the winter. It takes only a little snow at a major airport to disrupt the whole system.

Flying to Providence from the St. Louis airport recently, I discovered that all flights in and out of Chicago Midway—my connecting airport—were substantially delayed, due to a snowstorm the previous day in Chicago.

Having arrived early, I changed to a different Southwest flight. I received my boarding pass and was working at my computer when I heard my name called. I had not paid attention, and the flight had already boarded.

By the time I reached the plane, the agent advised me that I had to gate-check my carry-on. Flustered and tired, I told the attendant “Chicago” when the attendant asked my destination. I boarded the plane feeling glad I did not miss the flight.

I had misunderstood the flight attendant who checked my luggage. I had assumed the baggage handlers would bring it up to the gate when I got off the plane in Midway. I was the last person off the plane and found no luggage in the jetway. I asked the two pilots standing there if the luggage handlers were bringing up more. When they told me I could pick up my luggage at baggage claim, I realized my mistake.

I explained my error to the two pilots conversing in the jetway. I expressed frustration with myself for making such a mistake, particularly since I am a frequent business traveler and should know better. One of the pilots asked if I had my luggage claim check. He copied the number and said he would see if he could find my bag and retag it for Providence.

I thanked him profusely, although I really did not expect he would succeed.

As I arrived at the gate for the delayed Providence flight, I saw the pilot describing me to the gate agent and giving her the baggage claim number. He spotted me and informed me that he had succeeded in finding and redirecting my bag.

Frankly, I stood there stunned that a pilot would take such initiative. I thanked him most heartily. After he walked away, I realized that his action would ensure I remained a loyal Southwest customer.

This pilot was not even on duty. He was “deadheading” to Midway from St. Louis to fly out the next morning. And yet, on his own time, he made the effort to go the extra mile for a single customer.

Yes, my bag arrived safely in Providence when I went to baggage claim.

What does this story have to do with fire alarm system installations? It prompts me to ask, “What do you do for your customers to ensure their loyalty?”

The cynic would answer, “My customers are only interested in price. Why should I go the extra mile?”

But, you see, it only appears that good customers care simply about price.

When you bid on a project and discover the designer has made a mistake, do you inform the customer? When you know that the fire marshal demands something not required by the code, do you inform the customer? Or do you wait for the change order so you can charge more at the end of the job?

You can create customer loyalty by actively seeking opportunities to go the extra mile. You can create customer loyalty by pursuing excellence and performing, in every case, as a true professional. You can create customer loyalty by ensuring that you coordinate the commissioning of the fire alarm system with the other trades that interface with the system. In fact, do everything necessary to ensure the acceptance tests will meet the fire marshal’s approval.

Because you know an incomplete or improperly installed or tested and accepted fire alarm system can hold up the certificate of occupancy, make certain that does not happen. If you go the extra mile to ensure the customer gets the certificate of occupancy on time, the customer will remember your efforts and respond with loyalty.

You can create customer loyalty by knowing the code and keeping the surprises to the customer to an absolute minimum. You can create customer loyalty by instilling in each of your employees the attitude of going above and beyond.

Will I fly Southwest Airlines whenever possible? You bet! The company has succeeded at building my customer loyalty. Provide your customers with a reason to remain loyal to you.

MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a co-editor of the current National Fire Alarm Code Handbook. Moore is a principal with Hughes Associates Inc. at the Warwick, R.I., office.