Archive for January, 2010
Service providers often think good customer service means giving the consumer more:
more choices, more time, more options.
Customer service isn’t how much you provide, it’s how you provide it!
On a recent trip to Illinois, I took passage on one of our financially-challenged major
airline carriers. Although it was a relatively short hop from DC to Chicago, the airline
was willing to give those of us in the “cattle car” one of their few remaining perks-a
pop (deferring to the colloquial term for “soda”) and a snack. Because I was sitting near
the tail of the aircraft, I was last to be served. Fortunately, the plane was only half full, so
snacks were plentiful.
After asking me if I preferred peanuts or trail mix and then handing me my snack, the
flight attendant stared at me for a few seconds and asked, “Where’s your money?” I
apologized for not knowing the snack wasn’t free. She tersely responded, “Snacks
haven’t been free in three years.” Really? On a flight just two months ago, this same
carrier tossed snacks about the cabin like the government handed out TARP funding,
never once asking for payment. I gave back my trail mix, saying that I really didn’t need
it. After walking away, the attendant stopped, turned with snack in hand, and decided to
give me a freebie. However, it wasn’t free at all; it came with a follow-on lecture about
how she didn’t have to do this and how much the airlines are struggling financially. I sat
there not quite knowing how to respond, so I didn’t. I just took the snack, thanked her,
and went back to my Sudoku puzzle. But the more I thought about what happened, the
angrier I got.
No, I don’t believe this is a poor reflection of the airline’s service. I’m smart enough to
know that not all airline employees act this way. In fact, the flight attendant’s co-worker
was clearly uncomfortable with her comments. I also know that a flight attendant’s
primary role is to ensure safe passage for everyone on board; the fact that she helps
provide refreshments is a bonus. But conducting this secondary duty with such poor
grace has a profound impact. A 2007 global Nielsen survey found that consumer
recommendations were the most credible form of advertising among 78% of the study’s
26,000 respondents. And more recently, a 2009 Econsultancy survey showed that 90% of
consumers trust recommendations from people they know and 70% trust the opinions of
unknown online users.
There are several choices for the DC-to-Chicago route, all similarly priced. Providing
snacks isn’t a selling point for me. Attitude is! In the future, I will choose to work with
flight attendants who very politely tell me that snacks aren’t free, and who leave it at that.
You can take my pillows, you can take my blankets, and you can take my snacks. But
what you do, you’d better do exceptionally well-or I will choose another airline and tell
others about it.
Whether you are conducting your primary duties or “other duties as assigned,” how you
do them means so much more than what you choose to do or not do.