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Lack of professionalism from airline attendants reflects badly for customer service

Last week American Eagle flight 3823 leaving Kennedy Airport and heading to Washington, D.C. was delayed for hours because two flight attendants got into an argument just as the plane began to roll away from the gate. The flight was scheduled to leave at 3:10 Wednesday afternoon, but what should have been at the very worse scenario a 15 minute delay as the captain of the flight brought the contentious employees into the cockpit area for a private conversation and a reminder that employees are obligated to work together for the benefit of everyone’s safety and convenience, instead turned into a four-hour flight delay.

It seems one of the attendants had been on her cellphone as the other attendant told all of the passengers over the intercom to turn off their phones as the flight was preparing to pull away from the gate. That particular attendant allegedly chastised her working partner over the intercom thus embarrassing the other person in front of passengers, and one can only guess how quickly the situation turned into an ugly scene. There can not be an argument that the lack of professionalism from the two flight attendants could ever be rationalized. And as one passenger asked what ever happened to customer service or even the rights of passengers, it would seem that American Eagle had no idea as to the answer.

Let’s face it; had a similar argument ensued between passengers, someone would have been arrested, or at the very least been thrown off that particular flight. In this situation however, the plane turned around and passengers had to wait for hours while the airlines searched for a replacement crew. In the interest of customer service, why didn’t the airline split the two arguing attendants up; one could easily have changed from the front of the plane to the back of the plane, or better yet why weren’t the individuals mature enough to dismiss their verbal “hissy” until the end of the flight and all passengers had safely deplaned in Washington?

Adding to an already poor customer rating for scheduling delays and cancelled flights because of pilots calling in sick and crews filing maintenance reports, the Fort Worth based airlines owned by AMR Corporation who also owns American Airlines, continues to score low grades for customer satisfaction. In fact, in 2010 American Eagle was dubbed “America’s Meanest Airlines.” Ouch!

No matter what the industry or the government regulations, customer service is expected. In this particular situation the passengers all suffered. According to the airline’s press release, the employees were meeting with their supervisor the next day. Surely there should be acceptable protocol for disagreements between employees while on the job. Passengers suggested that someone should have pulled rank and ordered the attendants to proceed with their assignment in order to accommodate the paying customers.  Customer service should never be placed on the back burner in lieu of unprofessional behavior. Airlines owe it to their passengers to either ensure better training or perhaps sending these two employees packing their own bags and finding new jobs somewhere else.

Work on customer loyalty to build business

There’s more to sustaining and building a business than just providing products or services. Our competitors are always within inches of grabbing our customers and clients with a better presentation, a better product, or a better service. It’s not about just selling; it’s about presenting our best employees and our sales teams who possess not only positive attitudes, but who are attentive listeners and problem solvers.

So how do we build and maintain customer loyalty? We all know to keep accurate records of our clients’ purchases, their history, and their buying trends, but making improvements and constantly staying in touch can make a profound impression on any client. In the age of advanced media choices, use email, blogging, and twitter to a company’s advantage. Even negative feedback can help to bring about customer loyalty. When a product fails or a service isn’t to a customer’s satisfaction, a company’s reputation is out there “laying on the line.” Use negative experiences to revamp procedures, update products, improve services, and help a customer find the best and most efficient solution to their complaint. Those are the customers you will have dazzled with your customer commitment, and in essence these are the very same people who will be your walking billboards for loyalty and attracting new customers.

Always strive to improve your customers’ lives; in other words “own” the customer. Here are some suggestions to build customer loyalty:

  • Always make sure customers receive prompt responses to their complaints or negative comments. Make sure the mistake isn’t repeated.
  • Survey customer satisfaction and encourage feedback by surveys, polls, emails, and personal correspondence if needed.
  • Offer reward programs for loyal customers. Businesses can offer special preview days, exclusive discounts, or prizes appropriate to the product or service offered.
  • Provide genuinely useful information to your buyers and clients. Newsletters, timely advice on update of products, as well as information about recalls and discounts will keep customers focused and satisfied that the organization they deal with really cares about them and is just not out there to make a sale.
  • Never take a client for granted and how a business acts before the sale, during the sale, and after the sale are all indicators how a client or customer will feel when the time comes to use your business again.
  • Make customer feedback a priority. Show how improvements have been made. Accept positive feedback graciously, change negative feedback to show improvements, and constantly watch out for new trends to make every customer confident that you are there for them.
  • Reward key employees and staff who have gone above and beyond for their customers. Use financial rewards, promotions, prizes, and peer recognition to congratulate the best and inspire those who have yet to achieve their full potential.

Customer loyalty may at times seem like a daunting task, but in an economy where only the strongest and the best survive, shouldn’t we all remember to place our customers at the very top of the list?

A few lessons learned from new PayPal president David Marcus

David Marcus, new president of PayPal who sent an email to Andy McMillan, creator of Build Conference in an ongoing dispute concerning a freeze on McMillan’s accounts for more than $64,000, is being called a publicity stunt. Even if that is true, it still shows how everyone needs to pay attention to what is going on despite one’s title or position. Of course, with corporate duties and other upper tier responsibilities, the waters of dealing directly with customers often are muddied, but it’s obvious executives still need to tune into what is going on for all levels of business.

According to Andy McMillan’s blog, a smashed violin and an account directed to help fund underprivileged children became an endless series of customer service personnel exchanges after McMillan’s accounts were frozen to cover possible future refund disputes. When customer service personnel refused to lift the freeze on all of McMillan’s accounts because of PayPal policies, McMillan scaled the customer service mountain up to the Resolution Center. Unfortunately the promised resolution only cemented the accounts being frozen; the customer had reached the end of the service line.

Whereas $64,000 isn’t an amount to sneeze at and just dismiss nor would PayPal respond to him anymore,  McMillan took his complaint one step farther and finally resorted to Twitter:

Months on and PayPal issues still ongoing, holding £40k of @themanual sales, accounts locked without review, call centre useless and …

  1. 4 days ago
  2. goodonpaper
    … Executive Escalations completely unresponsive. Overdraft covering shipping costs depleting fast. What the hell do I do? Can anyone help?
    4 days ago
  3. Granted I hadn’t expanded much, so I followed up with the full story in a Twitlonger post:
  4. goodonpaper
    Thank you so much for your support, Twitter. I’ve written up what’s happened so far, please reach out if you can (cont) tl.gd/j6glqa

And out of the tangled PayPal policies that obviously needed to be changed, entered new president David Marcus who sent an email to McMillan from his iPad and profoundly apologized for the unsatisfactory treatment and lack of resolution. Everything an organization should do when confronted with an obvious problem was addressed by Marcus. For instance, a new commitment to better service, a promise to change the policies that obviously had not been working as demonstrated by McMillan’s problems and the repeated apologies of a company that obviously cost a customer a lot of time, frustration, and disappointment were humbly addressed. A few times Marcus stated he would understand if McMillan never wanted to use PayPal again, but sincerely hoped for another chance and wanted to use this failure as a way to improve customer service.

Andy McMillan’s PayPal account has since been released, and he still maintains an account with PayPal. Time will tell if new lessons have really been learned. It is hoped however that all customers, no matter if their PayPal balance reflects $64. or $64,000 will be treated with a satisfactory resolution should a dispute occur in the future.

Customer service agents are also sales people

Although a customer service agent might be overheard saying they prefer to be in the background when it comes to sales positions, the talents of customer service representatives also take a paramount position in successful sales and marketing. The leadership role, as well as the emotional tone and empathy a customer service agent can impart upon a customer, is what can make a  lasting impression that may either result in the consumer moving on to the next company and competition or singing a company’s praises. Agents who have the enthusiasm to work side-by-side with clients to solve problems or at the very least strive to create the positive feeling of problem solving can collectively help bring about an emotional attachment that reflects a positive experience and future customer loyalty.

So how does a customer service representative who is hesitant about selling be helped to feel comfortable? Ironically service agents already have an edge in sales because they find it easy to speak with clients and customers. Their proficient people skills are able to open up a constructive dialogue – sometimes starting off a bit emotional if a customer is upset, but a customer service professional will mete out the proper proportions of counsel, empathy, clarification, and support. And isn’t that what a customer needs? In many cases isn’t it the salesperson who asks the right questions to help a customer make the right decisions as to the product or service that she might need?

Sales people should not want to force a customer to buy a product they don’t need, which fits perfectly into the world of the customer service representative who strives to make the products and services relevant. The hardest part however centers around closing the deal, so for those who are scared of selling, knowing the product well, having the best training and being able to navigate customer service skills each agent has honed through experience can bring success and of course profits.

And for those organizations who have already spotted the best and the brightest, be sure to continue their sales training while honing their skills on the customer understanding of products and services because once a customer is convinced they have made a positive connection with a sales person, the deal is on the way to being closed. There is no better way to build a successful business than by hiring, training, nurturing, and rewarding the best employees a business can hire; after all they are the reflection of you.