I know I have been silent since long, thanks to hectic travel last week. I was in Helsinki (Finland) again in the past week where I met a few customers. What a learning experience it has been!
When you are in a meeting with customer, you have an opportunity to:
- Add value to them (so much so that they pull their notepad out and start taking notes)
- Learn about communication, what works and what doesn’t.
How you utilize these two opportunities makes a huge difference to the business.
Even my travel was a great learning experience. Here is a brief account of what happened – I was scheduled to reach Helsinki via a connecting flight from Frankfurt. I started for Frankfurt but because of bad weather at Frankfurt, the flight was diverted to Paris. Here, all the passengers were made to sit on the plane for 6 hours after landing, in anticipation that weather condition at Frankfurt will improve. Suddenly, we saw air-hostesses pulling out their baggage leaving all passengers wondering. Then we were de-planed and taken to airport. Flight was canceled and we had to stay in Paris for 1.5 days before resuming our journey. Lot of passengers reached their destinations (Chicago, Newark, Frankfurt and so on) on Monday morning; just about the time they were to start working. You can read more about this ordeal here.
Aviation is a customer service business more than anything else. Most companies have similar aircrafts, equipments and infrastructure available to them. It is only customer service that enhances quality of experience and makes an airline preferable over other.
This experience taught me some valuable lessons in what NOT to do in customer service. Here are the top 7 mistakes in customer service:
- Not smiling enough: The cabin crew team was very serious. They had an invisible message on their forehead which said “We are not interested in you”. Customer service is fun (for both the parties) when you smile a lot. It costs nothing to wear a smile, but goes a long way in building comfort.
- Not listening and not communicating: Cabin crew is the touch point for customers. When some of the passengers wanted to complain or express a concern, the cabin crew was inattentive. They would listen and do nothing about it. Listening to concerns and not doing anything about it is as good as not listening. Similarly, when passengers were waiting, no announcements were made. Communication was a mess.
- Lying to your customers and not fulfilling your promises: When we were made to sit in the plane for 3 hours, the pilot announced that we will fly in another 30 minutes. An hour passed and we did not fly. A few more hours later, pilot announced that since his 16 hours of flying time is over, the flight is cancelled. They kept on giving false promises to the customers.
- Sticking to your policy and ignoring problems faced by the customer: Processes are tools that we use to serve our customers. Often, same processes can become a hurdle in solving customer’s immediate problems. Don’t let that happen.
- Going inaccessible when customer wants to talk to you: You know you have made a mistake. Go out and accept it. Hiding after making mistake can magnify the situation. When you make a mistake, you should have courage to call customer and say, “I screwed it up” and immediately work on solution. Imagine the frustration of customer when they want to know something and there is no one at the other end!
- Passing the buck to someone higher in the order: When someone started complaining to the air hostess, she immediately redirected the passenger to the pilot. Sure, there are people above you who can give comfort, but why not try doing it yourself?
- Forgetting the basic courtesies: Smiling, saying “Thank You” and “Sorry” does not cost a dime but it shows that you care. After a customer meeting, I replaced a normal “Thank You” with “Thank you so much for your time and I really appreciate it”. The idea is to make it more beautiful.
Each travel extends some learning, but this was of a completely different sort! Learning that came a hard way.