Tomorrow I am set to depart for a trip to Australia. My flight is with Air New Zealand. I was relieved that I was not going to be impacted by possible strike action…
But wait for it … the first leg of my trip is with (are you ready) – Air Canada!! I have been passed from pillar to post, from one customer relations rep to another – all the time feeling totally powerless to the “flying gods.”
Knowing there was a strike coming on Wednesday (Tuesday midnight), I knew my goal – get someone – anyone to help me get to Australia.
I’ve spent the last 3 days on the phone with Air Canada, Air New Zealand and various customer reps with Red Tag Vacations. I’ve experienced empathy, coldness, irritation and rudeness. I have worked to be polite in all my dealings with each person. I do understand that these people are not the problem.
One of my creative solutions was to get myself to San Fran on my own dime and make the second leg of the flight. BUT – that was not possible (according to Air New Zealand). Air NZ wanted to charge extra fees and penalties for me to solve my own problem. More on that later.
So what have I learned? (far from an exhaustive list)
- Listen carefully to your customer: Listen closely to what your customer is saying. If they are having difficulty expressing what they want/need, help them to articulate it. When they are clear about what they want; you can serve them more effectively
- Listen with empathy: If the particular problem is one that you cannot solve, empathize with the difficult situation someone is in. For example, when I told my story to Air Canada, the customer rep was cold and uncaring. Saying he was sorry for my difficulty would not have hurt him – in fact it might have helped him. Another customer rep empathized and my frustration level reduced because even if they were not solving my problem, they were relating to me as a human. I was not merely a financial transaction to him/her.
- Try to problem solve creatively: Work with your customer/client to find a solution to their problem.
- Be authentic: Don’t pay lip service to people. If you can’t/won’t help them, don’t pretend that you are. You will get found out eventually and your reputation will be damaged. Some social media savvy people can do some damage to your reputation (remember the guitar story?).
- Make your policies flexible: I suggested to Air New Zealand that I would get to my first destination (San Fran) on my own dime. They blew me away when they said that I had to use my ticket from the first point of departure or I would be considered a “no show”. Classic inflexibility.
The Air Canada strike has emphasized a lesson that we all learned a long time ago and that is …
Put your customer first.
Your customers have many places to go to buy products or services similar to yours. If you don’t meet their expectations or exceed them: believe me they will look somewhere else!
[Update] I’d just like to give online kudos to Red Tag Vacations. From the President (who did give me a personal call and asked staff to find a solution) to the manager of online bookings (Gina) to a customer rep (Christina) who both called me to let me know that the strike was averted. These people and their actions stand out above all the other customer reps because they cared enough to inform me that the strike was over. No one else did that and believe me, I’ve talked to a lot of people in the last 3 days.
Were you affected by the Air Canada strike or some other service disruption? What did you learn about customer relations as a result?