During a recent flight home after a training session, I witnessed a great example of outstanding customer service. It was nothing major. In fact, most people would likely overlook this exceptional effort when offered or not miss it in its absence. This small act of service, though, helps shine the light on how exceptional customer service can disappear over time.
After delivering a session of PCC’s Effective Management series to one of our partners, I boarded a flight from Ogden, Utah, back to Dallas. There’s no need to call out the specific air carrier. It was simply a major AMERICAN airline.
Shortly after reaching cruising altitude, the flight attendants started rolling their refreshment cart down the aisle. Judging by age and attitude, I believe one of the flight attendants was experienced, having worked her position over a long number of years. Her partner appeared new to her career, with a bubbly persona and bright smile.
As I do on most every flight, I requested a Diet Coke. After receiving my small cup of ice, this flight attendant, we’ll call her Smiley, opened my can of soda. With a friendly, “Enjoy,” she handed me the open can.
The “seasoned” flight attendant then looked at her inexperienced partner and with a disdainful voice said, “You don’t have to open the cans for them.” With a confident and upbeat tone, Smiley responded, “That’s okay. I just think it’s a nice little touch.”
I AGREE! In fact, after hearing this three-sentence exchange, I supported my flight attendant by saying, “I agree, that was a nice little touch. Thank you and keep up the great service.” And I said it loudly enough for ol’ grumpy to hear me.
This is an excellent example of how time and experience can be at odds with delivering a great customer experience. When dealing with people, some of them less-than-nice, day after day, month after month, and through the years, it’s easy to turn against the customer. In fact, this is one thing that makes delivering exceptional customer service so difficult. Often, it’s the customers themselves that get in the way of a great customer experience.
Do all experienced customer service reps turn sour over time? Of course not. Over time, though, many employees can lose that first-day excitement and stop doing the little things that make a difference to the customer.
Organizations must be vigilant for those employees who become jaded, even angry, over time. This holds true not only for our customer-facing employees in Customer Service but also for employees throughout an organization. In the end, we are all responsible for delivering world-class service. It might be an HR person making sure an employee receives the correct, timely answer to a benefits question or it could be someone at the IT Help Desk getting an employee’s system back in working order.
Ultimately, it’s simply an individual choice. An employee must choose how to represent their organization and the type of experience their customer will enjoy. Each and every employee, experienced or newbie, decides how to interact with the customer, either doing just enough to get by or taking a “customer is king” attitude with every customer interaction.
In other words, they must decide whether or not to open that can of Diet Coke!
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.