In a recent post, Daniel Newman made the most salient point around why ‘I Can’t’ needs to be erased from customer service vernacular. He inspired me to take a closer look at my customer service experiences.
I recently traveled, from Brussels, on Jet Airways. I was a bit dismayed that (due to nebulous security reasons not fully explained), I couldn’t get my boarding pass online. So, the 1.5 hour trip to the airport had to start ridiculously early. (My driver was a young man in an Alfa Romeo. The harrowing drive to the airport is a story for another time – let’s just say, I made the airport with LOTS of time to spare.)
I found the check-in and, handing over my documents, asked if I may please have an aisle seat. The response was a brief nod – lots of typing. No eye contact. Not sure if he got it. I got into his sight line and asked again. I was rewarded with an affirmative grunt. Success! He handed me my boarding pass and, as I turned to walk away, I glanced at it. NOOOO! 23A. The dreaded A!
I turned back and, suggesting that it was my fault for not communicating clearly, humbly requested that he change my seat. “I can’t. For reasons of security. Suivant Next!” I opted not to cause a fuss; at an airport, a fuss can really throw a wrench into one’s itinerary. Instead, I walked away, silently fuming.
(I am never going to fly Jet Airways again. Ever.)
(A side note: I’m no Prima Donna. At over 6′ tall, getting me into a window seat requires Tobey origami. Eight hours folded up like a paper crane? Torture.)
Boarding the plane, I smiled and said good morning to the attendants, helped a little old lady store her bags, yielded the lavatory to a little kid. Sulking wasn’t going to make me shorter. Mr. 23B was about 6’5″ so trading? Not an option. I Cirque du Soleil’ed myself into my seat and embraced 23A. Within 90 seconds, the flight attendant was beckoning me to follow him. He led me to the front row and settled me in. Bliss! I could stretch my legs! I was puzzled: Why? His response: “You seem so nice and I want you to be comfortable.”
(I am going to fly Jet Airways again. Every chance I get.)
When I stand at a checkout, call a customer service line, or go to a restaurant, I’m friendly. Polite. I smile and ask “how’s your day?”. Generally, the level of the service I receive increases in direct proportion to my positive attitude. We are entrenched in ‘rush’: we’ve become accustomed to everything moving faster. Immediate gratification not forthcoming, we fume. Have a problem with a company? We sulk off muttering under our breath, often without openly complaining and thereby robbing that company of the opportunity to redeem themselves and satisfy us.
Under no circumstances am I suggesting one goes ‘Walter Mitty’; incensed customers offer benefits to an organization. It’s difficult to improve if no one ever points out what you’re doing wrong. There is some onus on the customer to ensure their needs are met. Go ahead – send the food back, ask for a full refund, get the Manager, challenge the “I can’t”. Done with compassion and respect (we’re all human), the reward may actually exceed one’s expectations.
(We are all both buyers and suppliers … referrals can come from anywhere.)
I do believe that, inherently, most people love to help others. They want to be heroes. As customers, we should give them that opportunity.
Do you ‘give good customer’?