In one of my recent cross-country jaunts, I did something that I rarely do—I checked a suitcase. Why is that rare for me? In my experience, checking bags equates to long waits at best and lost or damaged luggage at worst. Checking a bag is comical once you add the fees. My experience enforced the importance of being alert.
I stepped up to the ticket counter and placed my bag on the scale. The agent who had beckoned me forward was busy chatting with another customer and simultaneously checking IDs, tagging bags, and handing off boarding passes. I don’t know what made me do it, but I leaned over and looked at the bag tag the agent was sticking to another passenger’s suitcase. Indeed, the tag said “Kristin Baird” and would have been heading off to Orlando rather than Phoenix. I pointed this out to the agent who thanked me for catching her error. The agent seemed flustered as she quickly corrected her mistake. Her apology would have been enough, but she went on to say, “I’ve been up for 24 hours. I’m bound to make mistakes.” The comment did not make me feel assured. I couldn’t help but think that I didn’t need to know this. The experience made me want to warn everyone else here in line to be on the lookout for mismarked bags.
This experience, although a near miss, didn’t help to instill faith in this airline. In fact, the attendant’s comment actually made it worse.
Encourage Patients to Take an Active Role
There are a couple of key observations I took away from this experience that apply to healthcare. One, encourage the customer to be alert and take an active role in spotting mistakes rather than remaining silent. My example would have resulted in a misplaced bag, which is irritating, but not life threatening. And two, filter your comments. The customer doesn’t need to know that you’re overworked or tired. That does nothing to instill trust.