Thoughts from Dale Steenbergen –
Jet airliner, full to the brim and me not on it!
If you like classic rock, and the Steve Miller Band isn’t on your top five all-time favorites list, you probably need to re-evaluate your priorities. Regardless, Jet Airliner is a great song so give it a listen.
How does this relate to customer service? Good question and probably legitimate, but give me a moment because I do have a point here.
Last week, I had to make what I thought was a quick trip to Shreveport for the retirement dinner of General Ray, Commander of Global Strike Command. General Ray has been a great leader and has done a yeoman’s job of advancing the strategic competition mission of FE Warren and other global strike bases. GBSD (our new missile system) is positioned well because of his leadership, and we are grateful for his work. General Ray is a good and honest leader, and we wish him well in his future endeavors.
Yes, I know I am rambling here, and truthfully this snippet is about customer service and not about General Ray, so back to that “quick” trip. I flew out last Wednesday, attended my Thursday event, and was at the airport ready to return home Friday morning. I had checked in online with no issues, but then the dreaded announcement came across the speakers. I was flying American Airlines, which hubs out of DFW(Dallas – Fort Worth), and the weather was not cooperating. The first delay was announced, then a second, afterward a third, and eventually, the flight was officially canceled.
So if you think what happened next was that the airline employees immediately went to work fixing the problem and expressing understanding to those impacted, you would be wrong. Rather, they fled the area and did little to nothing to help. I opted to rebook a new flight online, but I was notified that the flight had been canceled. I was number five on standby and waiting to board when another traveler walked to the front of the line and started complaining. They were given a ticket to get on the airplane that was boarding, and it booted me to number six. If you guessed that there were only five seats left on that airplane, you would be right.
There I was watching the last plane of the day board asking about why I had been bumped down in priority. I was told, “Oh, that shouldn’t have happened as your code should have gotten you a seat, but there is nothing I can do about it now.” Okay, so what are my other options, I asked? “We can get you to Dallas tomorrow, but the first available flight to Denver is Sunday night. You can wait until then, or you can fly to Dallas and take your chances.” With Dallas being a big hub, I decided to take my chances.
I arrive the next morning for my flight and am again allocated a standby ticket. I am further down the list. As you can probably guess, I am not a happy camper by this point. I had spent the night in the airport because I didn’t get a ticket until after 8 p.m. Friday and had to be back by 4:15 a.m. for Saturday’s flight.
I am finally given a seat, albeit the wrong one, and so I mention it to the gate attendant, and her words to me were, “You can take the seat I gave you, or you can stay here. I don’t care.” By this point, I am more than an unhappy camper; I am livid, to say the least. I took the seat to Dallas and was more than a little enthused about leaving Shreveport behind me.
I arrived in Dallas and ran to gate C-30, where I met Jo. I walked up to the gate and was greeted with a big smile. I didn’t even have to tell Jo what I had been through. She is the type of employee we all dream of having. She looked me in the eye and knew immediately that something was wrong.
She looked at me and said, “You look like you’ve been through it. What can I do to help?” I explained my situation to Jo, and she said, “Let me see your ticket or a standby document.” And 60 seconds later, I had a ticket to Denver on a plane leaving in 45 minutes.
I sat in the gate area and watched as Jo turned frowns into smiles and comforted folks who were receiving bad news for their travel plans. I watched as kids laughed and adults smiled because of Jo’s customer service. The difference was astonishing from my experience in Shreveport. It wasn’t the airport, or the disruption of schedule, or the location; rather, it was the approach and customer service displayed by one human that understood her job.
Customer service is important in all of our businesses. Do your customers leave feeling like they met the surly little gate attendant in Shreveport, or even when you have to give them bad news, do they feel like they just interacted with Jo?
I can tell you if you want repeat customers, you better find some Jos to work in your business. People are what make the difference, and we need to spend time building people and not just skills. Folks will forget about your product, but they will not forget about how they were treated.
I don’t know Jo’s last name, nor do I personally know anything about her, but I know that she exhibited respect for people when many of us were not easy to respect. Here is to you, Jo, and everyone like you who understands customer service and works hard to help people. This one is for you, Jo from old blue eyes (Frank Sinatra). Come Fly with Me.
About the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce:
The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1907 and is more than 1,000 members strong. Using guiding core competencies, the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce demonstrates leadership by advocating for business at all levels of government and promoting our community to make the region a better place to live, work, and do business. The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce is also active in the Wyoming Business & Industry Federation, Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Visit cheyennechamber.org for more information.