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Customer Service Lesson

Customer Care

What started out as a customer service Moment of Misery™ turned into a Moment of Magic®. I was headed to Lagos, Nigeria to do a customer service speech at a public event. My client, who is from Lagos, arranged a flight with Delta Airlines. The flight would take us from St. Louis to Atlanta, then to Lagos. Unfortunately, the plane from St. Louis had a mechanical issue and wouldn’t get us to Atlanta in time. I pride myself in showing up on time, actually early, and I was determined to get to Lagos for my presentation. This is where I saw some amazing people who worked with Delta Airlines and the St. Louis airport, move into action. The Delta gate agent was empathetic and helpful, however, Delta had no solution. I mentioned the only way I could make the connection in Atlanta was a private jet. She thought I was joking. I wasn’t. It really was the only option, so we worked fast. We headed to the general information booth to help us with our quest, however, it was all new to her. I started Google searching private charters in St. Louis. As I found companies she wrote down the phone numbers. She was truly excited to be helping with this “project.” She started documenting everything so next time a passenger needed this, it would be accessible for her and everyone else. However, after contacting all the private charters we encountered our next problem, you can’t just jump on a private plane. It takes two to three hours to get a plane ready. If we were to make our flight to Atlanta we needed that plane in an hour. My client was still discussing alternative flights with Delta; when I asked a simple question, “Why do we keep looking at Atlanta?” We didn’t need to fly out of Atlanta. We didn’t need to fly non-stop to Lagos. We didn’t need to fly on Delta. This flexibility allowed us options. Ultimately we found a flight departing from New York that would stop in London, where we would change planes and make it to Lagos in time for the event. So, instead of trying to get to Atlanta by that evening, we bought ourselves the extra time to get a private jet ready. Ultimately we made it there in time for the speaking engagement.

Here are the customer service lessons:

1. Be calm. This goes for both employees and customers. We all remained calm, which allowed the Delta people to concentrate on solutions versus spending time calming an upset customer. Before you can help a customer, the customer must be in the right frame of mind to be helped. In this instance, we were all calm. One of the Delta employees mentioned how most passengers are angry and upset when there were flight delays, and she appreciated our patience and understanding. 2. Listen to your customers. The Delta team – yes I’m calling them a team as there were three people who stepped up to help us – were willing to listen to my suggestions. I fly 60-70 trips a year. Sometimes I think that I know the airline schedules better than the airline personnel. Our collective knowledge and experience allowed us to come up with alternative routes to consider. This takes us to the next idea, which is extremely important… 3. Be flexible. Flexibility is a game changer. Until we agreed that we didn’t have to go to Atlanta, we didn’t have a solution. Being open to alternatives can be the difference between success and failure. 4. Constantly learn and improve. Going back to the woman at the information booth, she had never been asked to find a private jet service. She stated that she was going to make sure everyone knew what to do the next time a customer had this special request. Without her realizing it, she was practicing continuous improvement, and more importantly, she was documenting the process for the future. 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.

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