You’ve seen them. The scowlers perched behind the counter daring you to step up and ask a question. The ones who look like they hate their jobs, their lives, and perhaps you too. It always amazes me to see these folks in customer service positions. When I met Karla last week at the airline ticket counter, I learned two things. One, that I was an inconvenience, and two, that Karla The Ticket Agent hates her job.
Here it was, 6:00 a.m. in the Orlando airport, just miles from the Magic Kingdom, the hallmark of stellar service, and I’m being harassed by a disgruntled employee. After standing in line for over 20 minutes surrounded by cranky children and stressed parents, I am beckoned forward not by Debbie, the bubbly agent, or Keith, the polite and professional agent. I got scowling Karla.
I had checked in and paid my baggage fees online but was unable to print my boarding pass. This apparently irritated Karla who sighed heavily, rolled her eyes, and gestured for me to put my bag on the scale that first registered 48 pounds, held it, then flashed between 48 and 51 pounds. Was it under the weight limit by two pounds or over by one? Undaunted by Karla’s attitude, I chuckled a bit, thinking Karla would just settle for 48. Keeping it light, I jokingly prodded her to settle for 48. But no such luck. Glaring me down as though I had just cracked an inappropriate bomb joke, Karla insisted I unpack a few pounds. When I pointed out that the scale was faulty, and I had no way of carrying whatever I removed from the bag, she said, “Too bad. Take something out.”
I was appalled that this airline’s reputation is in the hands of its customer service agents. How many first impressions are putting your organization at risk? Keep an eye on the keepers of your organization’s first encounters, and don’t let the Karlas of the world taint your customers’ first impressions. Karla was gruff, abrupt, and abrasive. And she is the face of the airline. I wonder if Karla’s manager ever observes her in action. I wonder if Karla has had any customer service training. I can’t tell. But I can tell that Karla hates her job. And because of it, I now hate her airline.