One missed flight connection, two very different customer service examples and three things to remember about the power of simply being nice.
On the way home from a recent work trip, I missed my connecting flight for the final leg by mere minutes. I thought I would make it, since I could see the plane, and the jetway door was open. But, the gate agent declared the flight closed, shut the door with a flick of his hand, and the conversation that transpired between us after that point could be described, at best, as unsatisfying.
I headed toward the airport exit, hopeful for a cab and a hotel for what remained of the night. Two curbside check-in employees immediately asked how they could help and produced a bottle of water, which I accepted gratefully after the sprint through the airport. One gentleman looked for nearby hotels on his smartphone, and the other called a cab for me. When the cab arrived, they told the driver to take care of me, since it was apparent that I’d had a rough evening.
The irony of this story is that I was returning home from teaching a class in how to provide exceptional customer/client service. Both airport experiences were real world examples of what I had taught just the day before. Here are three takeaways from that class:
- If you have to deliver bad news, offer a solution as well. Start with an apology, even if the problem isn’t your fault. An apology acknowledges that the customer has been inconvenienced and sets the tone for you to offer a way to solve the problem. Remember these powerful phrases if you ever have to tell a client or customer something they don’t want to hear. “Here is what we can do for you…,” or “We have some options. They are…” The gate agent got me a ticket home, but never indicated that he had done anything beyond the bare minimum required of him.
- Your nonverbal communication is two times more powerful than the spoken word. A little kindness went a long way that night. That bottle of water and the empathetic tone of voice from the men outside was a sharp contrast to what I experienced from the gate agent. He was expressionless, uncommunicative and most of all, seemed irritated that he had to deal with me.
- Know your customer’s expectations and exceed them. The gate agent has a tough job, I admit. However, having a plan in advance for how to handle difficult situations allows you to deal with customers with grace and in a way that lets them know that their business is appreciated. Missed connections are an unavoidable fact of life for air travel these days; airline employees who are equipped to deal with grumpy passengers can quickly diffuse an angry situation.
So, remember to be nice. Be helpful. Offer solutions. And never underestimate the power of a bottle of water.
Cydnee Snodgrass is a Director on the Training, Facilitation, and Employee Engagement Team at Mitchell. The team consists of leadership and business performance strategists who are proficient in customized training, facilitation, change management and employee engagement. The team brings real-world experience to the table and knows how to make a difference with clients.
For more information about The Center, Mitchell’s training and facilitation division, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.