Customer Service Takes Courage

Spring has been sunny, warm, even hot here in the Pacific Northwest, encouraging an explosion of color and natural beauty all around. I think it makes people friendlier, even when I was the tired and grumpy passenger with lost and broken luggage customer service representatives had to deal with. Well, that is what I initially thought when I was greeted with friendliness and a true desire to help me in my misery. On second thought, though, I realized that building a great customer service experience takes time and courage.

The Alaska Airlines customer service people I had to deal with on both occasions – lost luggage once and a broken bag the other time, within two weeks of each other, were friendly, supportive and offered me great deals to offset the inconvenience of the experiences.

By sharp contrast, though, the customer service people at the airport where the luggage was lost were confused as to what to do or who to contact. Three different representatives repeated behaviors that others had already tried and made numerous phone calls with the same result each time. Blaming someone else for my predicament, while not coming up with a solution for my situation. It took an hour-and-a-half before all paperwork was filled in, all carousels checked three times and I was sent off with a piece of paper and a promise to call to arrange for delivery when my bag had been found.

Alaska airlines had the courage to give all their employees authority to make their passengers’ experience as pleasant as possible. On the other hand, the airport baggage-handling customer service staff were obviously afraid to say or do the wrong thing, were following procedure, checking off all the boxes, while frustrating the customer and exposing the glaring inadequacies of their system.

Harvard Business Review had an article in the April issue about customer service not starting at the customer-facing front desk. The article reminds us that customer service starts at the top of the company with a mindset based on the values of the company and its desire to build and keep relationships with customers, way into the future. Customer service is part of all departments that have nothing directly to do with customers. Invoices coming from the accounting department, programs that dictate how business is done, policies and procedures to make businesses run efficiently and get the word out to customers about services all should have the goal of making customers happier. It takes courage to give everyone authority to support that goal. Great customer experiences establish loyalty and steady sales; systems and procedural checklists do not.

The desire to please is human. Trusting that, takes courage.

Let us work together to get all your teams to realize their human potential for customer service excellence. Contact me