Last Tuesday morning I was scheduled to facilitate some supervisor training for one of PCC’s great partners. With the threat of ice on Monday morning when I was scheduled to depart DFW, I decided to leave Sunday afternoon. Rather than postpone the training due to a cancelled flight, I was determined to offer PCC’s partner a high level of customer service by pushing my departure up a few hours.
While offering great customer service was on my mind, I can’t say the same for the airline that took me to Ogden. There’s not enough room here to describe the flight but due to multiple mechanical issues, we arrived in Salt Lake City three hours late. I know that because the pilot made this announcement – four times!
As we pushed back from the departure gate (for the second time, I might add), the pilot announced what everyone already knew. “We are three hours late but no one has any connections in Salt Lake so everyone will be okay.”
Once at cruising altitude, the pilot again reminded us of our three-hour delay.
As we started our descent, he mentioned our delayed arrival. Yes, it was still three hours.
Finally, as we pulled up to the gate, the pilot announced, ““We’re three hours late but welcome to Salt Lake City.”
What we didn’t hear and what would have eased the pain a bit (other than a complimentary glass of wine, of course) was having the pilot say, “I’m sorry.”
Two small words that can make a big difference.
I was reminded four times that we were three hours late but did the pilot care? I don’t know. Nor do I know if the flight attendants cared. They didn’t offer an apology either.
Most companies work hard to deliver outstanding customer experiences. When a customer encounters a hiccup with their experience, simply acknowledging the inconvenience can help soothe a customer’s feelings. So why don’t we hear sincere apologies more often?
Organizations must obsessively develop a culture of customer service and constantly remind employees that anything less than an exceptional customer experience is unacceptable. Part of that “customer is king” culture is to train employees to accept responsibility for a subpar experience and to sincerely apologize for missing the mark, even if the problem is out of their control. Customers want to know you care.
Taking a flight out a day early wasn’t a big deal but hopefully meant a lot to my client.
Saying “I apologize for your inconvenience” would not have put me in Utah any sooner, but it would have made me feel a little better.
Darren K. Ford
I've enjoyed a great career. Worked in many different industries with great coworkers and customers. I talk to a lot of people while drinking a lot of coffee. I read constantly. From all of this, I have much to say.