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Lessons Learned From Bad Airport Customer Service

September 27, 2011

It Made Me Think, “Is That True About You, Too?”

I walked up to the empty USAirways counter. The two desktop computers stood idle. I looked around trying to discern if the attendant had walked away for moment, perhaps just down the ramp to talk to the flight crew or to open the gate.

Nearby, dressed in USAirways attendant uniforms, two women sat chatting amiably – the way good friends talk. Animated gestures and facial expression, bodies turned facing each other, eyes linked, touching occasionally to make a point. I interrupted.

“Has the attendant arrived who’ll service this gate? I need help.”

They stopped talking. The shorter of the two looked at me as if deciding if she wanted to accept my interruption. “Someone will be here at 1:20.”

I checked my Blackberry. It was 1:18pm.

Needing to find a ladies room, I ventured off. Nine minutes later, at 1:27pm, I returned to the gate. Those same two women were still sitting and talking. No one was working the gate. I turned to them for information.

“Excuse me. Has the attendant for this gate arrived yet?”

Reluctantly, they got up, walked over to the counter and logged in. They were the staff responsible for boarding my flight. After signing in, again, the smaller of the two looked up and said, “You need help with something?”

To be complete in the retelling, I want you to know that I did get my questions answered and satisfactorily. That’s not my point, today.

My point is, the experience made me think. Yes, I thought about how their behavior was such a poor demonstration of good customer service; about them and their attitude towards their customers who are the reason their jobs exist. That fact – “I have a customer service job because the company I work for has customers” – seemed lost on them, at least in the experience I had. Thinking about them would have been easy. As LIES That Limit discusses, it’s easy to see and focus on what “they” are doing wrong.

More than thinking about them it made me think about me. It’s much more challenging to see how the labels I could attach to their behavior – irresponsible, rude, lazy, ineffective and unconcerned; only there for a paycheck; their personal lives are more important than providing good customer service; they don’t care about ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty – might apply to me.  If I see myself through the eyes of my customers – those whom I’m paid to serve, my stakeholders – the wide network of people I love and interact with such as family, friends, professional associates, my local and global community – then what can I learn?

Those two women, like the three young white men I wrote about in chapter 9 of LIES That Limit, triggered a Pivot Point. They made me think about my mindsets and behavior relative to my customers and important others. They helped me awaken, take another look in the mirror, ask some tough questions of myself and engage those I love and serve in high-quality conversation about our mutual satisfaction with the way things are going.

To identify and address the LIES – the Labels, Illusions, Excuses and Stories – that limit my experience of love, joy, satisfaction and success, I serve myself by being open to exploring hard questions that may yield unflattering responses. Questions such as:

  • “If this person is a mirror, what are they showing me about me?”
  • “In what ways is what I’m noticing about them and their behavior, also true about me?”
  • “Do I treat my customers and stakeholders – those important relationships – with the quality of care that demonstrates I value them?”
  • “Through my customers’ and stakeholders’ eyes, what do I do [or not do] that may lead them to experience me as an irresponsible, rude, lazy, ineffective, unconcerned, only there for what I can get, suboptimal performer?
  • “What do I do that may result in my customers and key relationships experiencing me as not doing my level best?”

Is this a line of intentional reflection you’re willing to pursue? I guarantee it will hold tremendous value and could result in the kind of transformational change you’ve been longing for. It may help you right some relationships with those you love and those you serve.

I hope this makes you think, too.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2011 1:13 pm

    My first time here. Awesome blog and super post. Well done.

    • November 7, 2011 11:30 pm

      Arlene, I’m glad you visited the LIES That Limit blog. Hope the messages her continue to resonate with you. And, if ever you would like to submit a blog for consideration, forward it to me at tmg@spiritofpurpose.com. Keep reading. We appreciate your presence.

      Teressa

  2. tfinnman permalink
    November 4, 2011 2:47 pm

    You are the 1%, Teressa, and I’m not talking about Occupy Wall Street. You are in the 1%, and likely less, who would not have this story be about THEM. Thank you for focusing on where we all have control – I find your post not only self-empowering, but so positive in a world where negativity is often the drift of our conversations.

    Tom Finn

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