How to Create a Frequent Flier from a Crabby Customer

The biggest customer experience opportunities seem to come upon us quickly and without warning.  In the following story, think of how you could have provided a better customer experience.

While flying home from a family wedding with my 10-year-old daughter, we were hustling through the airport trying to make our connecting flight.  Our first leg was delayed 40-minutes just after the jet pulled away from the gate, and our rush to the next gate was exasperated by the inadequate shuttle system supplied to get us to the airport’s F concourse (I believe “F” stands for Far Away).

Finally off the dino-shuttle, our fast-walk shifts to an all-out run when we hear the announcement, “This is a final boarding call for flight 3779. If you do not board now, your seats will be given away.”  As we ran the length of the concourse to F31, we turned the corner toward the boarding door only to see the gate agent beginning to close the door to the jet’s walkway.

“Wait!  We’re here for 3779!” I call with arms raised against the pull of my carry-on and heaving from the run.

“Whoah, calm down,” says the agent to me with a stern face.  “We’re not going anywhere.”  He secures the door back open.  “There’s still time.  (He chuckles) I was going to make another announcement in four minutes, so calm down.” He says still stern.  “Now, relax: breath deeeeep and relax.”

I wanted to punch him.

From my POV as the customer, the door was closing to my flight meaning my seat was given away and I would need to do an impromptu flight search for my daughter and me rather than head home on schedule.  Therefore, I was not in the mood for what came across as a lecture followed by un-invited relaxation techniques.

I recently read a valuable book titled, Real Influence – Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In, by John Ullmen and Mark Goulston.  Their book explains the wonderful concept of effectively communicating with people/customers/groups by first finding ‘their there’ before moving forward to connect, communicate, or persuade.  Simply put, learn what your audience or customer’s mindset is by putting yourself in their position, before trying to persuade them.

If this gate agent would have considered my ‘there’, he would have understood that I was unaware that he was going to make another announcement, that we had four more minutes, and that just maybe my travel day had not been a happy one so far.

My Solution:  This customer experience would have been much more positive by greeting rushing customers with, “It’s OK.   We actually have a few minutes so there’s nothing to worry about.  Let me open this door back up so we can get you on that flight.”

I believe positive practice prepares you to properly respond in negative situations.  I encourage you all to practice your positive responses to customers (even family and friends) who approach you with concerns, problems, or simply corrective feedback.  Your customers will appreciate it and you might just turn that frown upside down and land a frequent flier!

You can learn more about the above-mentioned book at Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In: Mark Goulston, John Ullmen, Keith Ferrazzi: 9780814420157: BooksImage

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