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The other day I was on a flight going from Atlanta to Birmingham.  There were only 20 passengers on the flight and twelve of them were in First Class (I wasn’t.).  The gate agent called for the first-class passengers to board.  Then she said she would board the rest of us by row numbers.  There were only eight of us!  I even jokingly told her there were only eight of us, but she insisted on boarding us by row numbers. She called rows 30-35.  No one boarded. She called rows 25-35.  No one boarded. She called rows 20-35.  One person boarded.  Another tried to board, but she wouldn’t let her until her row was called.  The passengers laughed, the gate agent became irritated with all of us. Finally, she had called all of the rows.  I was in the last group and was almost laughing when I walked by her.  She picked up on it and said to me, “That’s the way we are supposed to do it.” Okay, I agree that calling row numbers helps the boarding process – on a normal (full) flight. But, come on!  There were only eight passengers in the coach cabin!  I’m not suggesting throwing away the “policy manual,” but how about using a little common sense?  This could have been right out of a television sitcom.  Maybe a Seinfeld episode! This woman was focused on the operation, not the customer.  Contrast this example with what happened the next day when the return flight was virtually empty.  The gate agent in Birmingham made an announcement without using the loudspeaker system.  He said something like, “I think you can all hear me.  Let’s all go ahead and board.  It looks like everyone with a reservation is here, so let’s get on, close the door and get out of here early.” What a difference! Obviously, I found the first experience to be very funny, even ludicrous – an extreme example of someone focused on rules and regulations.  She had just let twelve people in the First Class cabin on at once.  Letting the rest of us, all eight of us, on at once was not against the rules. “The way we are supposed to do it” is what she thought she was taught.  But, it is obvious she didn’t pick up on the part about using your best judgment or focusing on the customer. After all, isn’t it all about the customer? 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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