September 17, 2009
I'm going to take you on an odyssey of the highs and lows of customer service I experienced on a recent four-day cross-country trip. One would think (at least I would think) that everyone that still has a job in America would be happy to have it, and let their bosses, co-workers, and customers know it. That would be a really bad assumption.
I awoke bright and early on a Saturday morning to catch my flight to Philadelphia. My first encounter was with a gate agent for Delta Airlines. Whatever was on his little computer screen intrigued him so much that he couldn't acknowledge me for a full five minutes. In all that time, he never ONCE looked up at the annoyance standing not three feet from him. (you know, the guy who these employees are paid to keep happy) In fact, his co-worker walked back and forth from the door to the jetway and back to the desk no less than four times, also clearly intrigued by the computer screen, yet even to him I was either invisible or simply too insignificant to be recognized as anything but a nuisance. Gee, I only wanted to ask if there was an available aisle or window seat!
Lunch in Minneapolis was another matter altogether. The young lady at Chili's at the airport was pleasant, professional, and clearly loved her job. She maintained conversations with all the patrons at the bar, and none of her customers was left wanting for anything. What a nice change of pace from how my morning started out.
Check-in at my hotel was deja vu all over again from my experience that morning. Although eight agents were standing at the check-in desk, only three seemed to be able to pull themselves away from those amazing little computer screens long enough to actually interact with the customers. What is so damn interesting on those screens? I would love to know.
We finally got checked in, but the rooms weren't ready, so we had to wait a few hours for our keys. When we returned to the check-in desk, we encountered the most delightful agent imaginable. Responsive, witty, and gracious, she let us know if we needed absolutely anything, she was our point of contact. She impressed us so much that we would actually wait until she was available when we needed something, rather than talk to her less enthusiastic (read: zombie-like) co-workers.
I could go on and on. When traveling, customer service plays a large part in whether we have a good trip or one we'd rather soon forget. In my four days away from home, I had interactions with dozens of customer service representatives, from flight attendants to rental car reps, waitstaff and tollbooth workers. Ballparking my good experiences as a percentage of total interactions, they totaled maybe 10-15%. All the rest involved apathetic or simply pathetic employees who either hated their jobs or simply didn't know how to do them. Come on...BE PLEASANT. KNOW YOUR JOB. How hard is that???
Here's my solution to this epidemic. There are MILLIONS of Americans looking for work. I know for a fact most of them would be happy to displace all these malcontents that simply take up space, unable to perform even the minimum expectations of the public they are supposed to serve. Let's do a full-scale customer service transfusion nationwide, and we can start with that rep at Delta across town at the airport.
That is, if we can pull him away from that fascinating little screen...
Make it a great week.
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