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When discussing customer service, I don’t like to pick on the airlines. Their shortcomings are obvious. Yet while I may encounter that curmudgeon at the ticket counter or that crusty flight attendant, when it comes to the people side, the airlines usually deliver acceptable levels of service. It is usually the operational side that has created problems for the airlines; flight delays, cancellations, lost luggage, etc. To support the airlines, many times, these delays or cancellations are necessary due to weather or mechanical issues. Still, they are not always handled very well. Sometimes the bad service comes down to what appears to be complete ineptness. The service in the airline industry has become so inconsistent that many of their customers have adapted to the model that says, “Treat me like crap. I don’t care. Just get me there on time and I’ll fly with you again.” That said, we can learn a lot from the airlines.

Four simple lessons that the airlines teach us.

Manage my expectations. I hate delayed flights – or delayed anything! If we have to wait for our reservation at a restaurant or in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, let us know how long it will be. And don’t tell us 20 minutes when it is really 45 minutes. In other words, don’t let me down – again. Give me information. Is there bad weather? Is it a mechanical problem? Tell me and maybe I’ll understand. In any business, if something goes wrong, be honest about it. Let us know quickly and what you plan to do about it. The more we know, the better we feel. Have a backup plan. So the flight is canceled. What are you going to do about it? I’ve gone to stores that advertise sale items that are out of stock. Do I walk away disappointed? No. The good stores give me options that will make me happy. Create confidence. As mentioned above, just get me there on time and I’ll fly your airline with you again. In any business, customers expect what they buy (products or services) to do what they are supposed to do. Throw in consistently great service and you have a winning combination. Shep Hyken is a customer service/CX expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling author. Learn more about Shep’s customer service and customer experience keynote speeches and his customer service training workshops at Connect with Shep on LinkedIn. (Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

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