On a rare occasion, I have experienced a level of true customer service so good it cannot be named using the hackneyed labels currently employed.
I’m still moved (and loyal) when I remember myself standing in line at an airline ticket counter, so tired I was almost sick, about to embark on a 12-hour flight that was the last leg of a round-the-world journey. I felt very sorry for myself and due to rudeness on an earlier flight, I was not happy with this airline. I decided to be really ridiculous and ask for something I knew was just not done.
While waiting my turn I recalled how a couple of months earlier I had stood in a similar line, with a different airline. I was there to ask them to make a simple change in my flight. I received the, “Sorry we can’t do that” response. When I persisted, the next higher-up proceeded to give me, word for word, the same recitation. I persisted, and before they wore me out, I was listening to one of the suits from the back office recite the rules and laws of airline X. That experience was replaying in my head when I got to the agent.
I told her that I had this final long flight, was very tired and I wanted to lay down if possible. I told her I had been treated rudely (she never asked for any details) and I felt that our working relationship needed a perk in my favor, so I was asking, if there was capacity, to be given a first-class seat from London to LA. I braced myself for the guffaws and ensuing recitation of “We can’t!”
She just asked to see my boarding pass. I waited while she looked over my documents, consulted her monitor and, to my total shock, tore up my boarding pass, handed me a first-class boarding pass and said, “Have a wonderful flight.” Over a decade later I’m still in awe. Following that experience I generated quite a bit of long-haul premium-class revenue for that airline. Every dollar possible went to them.
This company went to the trouble to make their front-line agent able to handle the discretionary authority required to really resolve problems while seeing to the interests of the company. Any company can do that. The ones who actually go to those lengths are few, but you find them at the top of the market-share food chain.
At the moment, I fly mostly domestic and I fly Southwest. Yes, it’s a cattle car. Sometimes I feel like letting out a good 'moo' while I stand in numerical order in the loading chute. But it’s the most pleasant, friendly cattle car in the air and I am sick and tired of being growled at and having to endure the chronic pout that has become the cabin experience of most of the majors. These are the same airline companies who exist in an endless cycle of making huge profits, squeezing employees when revenues suffer, nickel-and-diming passengers if that doesn’t work, filing for Chapter whatever, getting bailed out by our tax dollars, making positive corrections, making lots of money …
I’ll leave it at that.
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About the Author
Randal is a results-driven, development and execution-oriented leader with more than 25 years of experience leading high performance teams. He’s a proven business professional, capable of leading change in both the boardroom and on the frontline, with a strong track record leading strategy development, entrepreneurship, performance and evaluation globally across a variety of social enterprises and functions.
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