There was only an hour between flights, but the airline assured us that it was more than enough time, and since it was their recommend itinerary, we let it fly (pun intended). With our false sense of confidence, we walked off the jet bridge in Madrid and began our search for the location of our connecting flight. We landed in Terminal 4S and our next flight was departing from Terminal 4. We were feeling pretty good. That lasted for about 100 yards. As we turned the corner we came into an expansive room that housed passport control. We were greeted by a sea of humanity all standing in an incredibly long queue. I was traveling with my 75-year-old dad who is not known for his low-key reactions. In this case, although his comments are not suitable for print, they were absolutely an appropriate assessment of our current situation. There were approximately 2,000 people standing still in line without out anyone explaining where to go or why the line was not moving. After about 40 minutes, we learned that the train connecting Terminal 4S to Terminal 4 was not functioning properly. Evidently the “S” in 4S stood for satellite, which was appropriate because it appeared to be about the same distance from our departure terminal as the moon is from earth.
I was traveling with my 75-year-old dad who is not known for his low-key reactions.
As we stood in line, we spoke with others who were in similar predicaments. We all figured that with these many people trying to catch connecting flights that the airline would surely hold the planes. We were wrong. After finally making our way to our gate, we were met with a closed door and nothing other than the instruction to go to customer service, where again we queued up to await our fate. For us, it was another flight in 12 hours. We were given our boarding passes, vouchers for a fine European meal at McDonald’s and passes to the airport lounge. What we did not receive was an apology or any empathy. This was all from an airline that prides itself on its superior customer service.
We were given our boarding passes, vouchers for a fine European meal at McDonald’s and passes to the airport lounge.
This is where so many companies screw up. They believe that delivering the best customer experience starts by placing customers first, and that is just wrong. Let’s go back to the example above. Obviously, a train malfunction is out of the airline’s control. But, the whole experience would have been different if we were provided timely and accurate information, treated with a bit of kindness and shown a little empathy. It is the people within a company that provides those things, and that is why the best route to improve the experience of your customers, is by putting your people first.
But, the whole experience would have been different if we were provided timely and accurate information, treated with a bit of kindness and shown a little empathy.
I have often written about this, but it is so fundamental that it weaves its way back into much of my writing. We are all in search of the same thing. We want to be heard, cared for, valued and respected. As customers, that is certainly true. and If we are to expect our employees to treat our customers in such a way, don’t we have to make certain that is how we treat our employees? The answer is an obvious yes! Companies need to hire good people. Then they need to empower them, connect them to a higher purpose and make them feel heard, cared for, valued and respected. If they do these things, their employees will want to deliver a great customer experience.
Companies need to hire good people. Then they need to empower them, connect them to a higher purpose and make them feel heard, cared for, valued and respected.
Fortunately, we were met with great customer experiences throughout the balance of our trip, including one young waiter in Ljubljana, who made us feel like we were his personal guests. He even chased me halfway across a bridge to bring me my cell phone that I had left on the table. We were so impressed by him, that we went back the next night just because we enjoyed his company and his hospitality. It wasn’t the food or the ambiance that brought us back, it was him. That was the power he had to turn us quickly into loyal customers. If you truly care about your customers, don’t put them first. Instead, put your people first and trust them to deliver a great customer experience.
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I serve as a thinking partner, providing my clients with the clarity, focus, and tools they need to make good people and product decisions. I help my clients tell their stories and build relationships with their customers. I enable their leaders to better connect and communicate with those whom they lead. Thanks for reading — Elliot Begoun
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