If I had to boil service recovery training strategy down to one simple message it would be: you ARE the organization. When every employee sees his or her role through that lens, it makes the whole service recovery equation much clearer. As simple as this seems, it’s alarming how often I see employees fail to make the connection. In their minds it’s me, (the worker bee) and them, (the company). When this mindset is pervasive, you can miss some important service recovery opportunities.
On my way back from vacation this past week, I observed a perfect example of what happens when the front line employee isn’t clear that they are the company. At the airport, a man was asking the gate agent to assist him in finding an alternate seat. Although the man was polite, I observed the agent getting irritated and snippy with him. Her tone and body language clearly indicated she didn’t want to deal with his petty issue. He had been placed in the very back row of the plane in the center seat. In my opinion that is the worst, most uncomfortable spot on the plane. It’s noisy, the seats don’t tilt, and don’t even get me started on the smells.
The passenger calmly and politely told the agent how disappointing this was considering he holds platinum status with the airline. Her response was, “Talk to Delta.” He responded by saying, “You ARE Delta.” She proceeded to give him a phone number to call.
I travel this airline almost weekly and sometimes several times in one week. I normally find the customer service to be quite good. But this example reminds me that every encounter with every customer matters. Whether it’s making a positive, lasting first impression or managing a difficult service recovery situation, you may lose the customer for good if it’s not handled well.
Was this a missed opportunity? You bet; especially with a loyal customer. It takes a lot of travel to reach platinum and just one individual to hand you off to a competitor.