The Business Part of Business

Airline Customer Service Under Duress

If you had the bad luck to travel a couple of days ago you likely had the opportunity to experience the non-fun that air travel has become. If you were on United Airlines you also got to experience what can be especially awful about airline customer service.

One of my kids was traveling Saturday. Her almost-ten-hour delay getting home was aggravating, but not the point. The point also isn’t that airline delays have become almost par for the course.

I’ll go further: airline employees having no idea what the answer is when you ask “when?” isn’t the problem, either.

Lying, on the other hand, isn’t OK. And being rude and acting put-upon to someone seeking customer service is a real problem.

Airline Customer Service

I could excuse the way my college-age-child described United Airline Customer Service, except I asked around; during the events of this weekend, that story was repeated over and over. I can chalk it up to the oxymoron that is “airline customer service“. I can tell you that in general airlines seem to have customer service issues, or that their business choices can look like they do. But if I’m fair about this I also need to tell you about the three times I was traveling this year that Delta Airlines provided meals to stranded passengers, and how pleasant they were each time. I should even tell you about the Delta gate agent in Birmingham Alabama who greeted me by name each time I saw him.

But here’s the thing: in customer service the only detail that ultimately matters is how you make your customer feel. Even when you can’t give customers what they ask for, you can make them feel listened to.

Yes, customer service is often that simple.

I’m not pulling out that old “the customer is always right” axiom, because often he isn’t. But the customer always wants to feel as though she matters to you, and you can always accommodate that.

Generally, companies that find their way to The Answer Guy’s Customer Service Wall of Shame have forgotten that. It is, simply, inexcusable. While it happens more at larger companies than at small ones, it’s easy to forget this simple customer service tactic. Just make your customers feel wanted. Just make sure your customers feel that they matter.

That said, as simple as it sounds, until you make customer service a stated priority of your business—perhaps with a business process to back the idea up—you might find implementing terrific customer service to be a challenge.

And of course, that’s where we come in.