Saturday, November 06, 2010

Customer Service Tip: Do NOT Call A Customer A "Jerk"

While checking in at the counter of a major airline at my local airport I discovered my free checked bag was over the allotted 50 pounds. This meant I would have to pay $50, but as a professional speaker who often travels with boxes of my books in a suitcase, this sometimes happens. I do not like to pay the extra money, but it comes with the business of being an author.

Meanwhile, the people next to me checked in for their flight. The two automated kiosks shared the same scale, and with my 56 pound bag, and their giant duffel, the scale tipped 108 (meaning their bag weighed was 52 lbs).

I did not say anything at the time, as I did not want to cause this couple (whom I do not know) to be charged an additional $50...... But once they were gone, I decided to point out to the counter workers that they were not consistent in charging everyone for heavy bags.

The woman who had checked their bag immediately got VERY defensive. She told me "No, their bag was only 43 lbs".

I was watching closely... their second bag was 43 lbs. Upon hearing this she added "Oh, I had my foot on the the scale, we stand that way all the time (foot up on scale, she demonstrated)".

Ummmm, if this was true, she should quit the airline and join Cirque du Soleil ... as she is made 100% out of elastic and can apply equal amounts of pressure consistently via her shoe. While I was watching the scene play out, and doing the math THREE TIMES in my head (108 minus 56 equals 52), she walked to two different computer stations. AMAZING, all with her foot on the scale!

I was not being belligerent (although clearly annoyed).... but I was a bit pissy. She dug her heels in and said that she knew the weight of bag when she lifted it because she has a bad back (ummm, is she a human scale, too?). I said, no, I was watching. She forcefully told me I was WRONG.

(I would like to add, I make mistakes, maybe I could be wrong... but she was clear in her tone that she is always right).

I was not asking for a refund (I had already paid my $50), but admittedly I was being snarky in my comments because I got the short end of this stick.

As I was gathering my stuff to head toward the long security line I said; "I am sorry if I am being a jerk..." To which she snapped "You are a jerk!"


My response? "I have never seen a (insert name of major airline known for great customer service) employee talk to a customer like that .... what is your name?"

She told me her name, and yes I wrote customer service.

I was mad as hell that she would respond by calling me a jerk (even if I was being one.... and honestly I was probably below the level of "jerk", and more at the level of "grumpy annoyed person"). My intent was never to ask for my money back or anything else. I just witnessed them not being consistent and wanted to point it out.

I shook my head, my hands were shaking with anger, and I walked away. Oh, and I "Twittered" the experience as a #fail.

I do not want anything from the airline, but this was over the top wrong. Customer Service is so important. In today's highly competitive world one employee having a bad day can kill your good will. It is easy to ruin a reputation and it takes many more positive interactions to make up for the negative ones.

The good news: two of the flight attendants that day were spectacular. They were nice, engaging, funny, caring, and delightful people to be around. I went back to the airline's customer service website and left compliments about these two employees who did make up for that one nasty person. I think we need to praise those who do a good job as much as we need to point out those who fail (heck, in today's society... maybe we need to do even more praising!)

I am human, and I blow it once in a while, too. Maybe I was being petty, and calling her our on her mistake / oversight obviously hit her in some vulnerable spot. But really, just say "thank you" to the person who apologizes for being a jerk... do not agree with them. Dang.

One more thing.....If I really was a jerk, I would have pointed out the weight of the other people's bag immediately when I noticed it and caused them to have to pay the $50, too!!!

Have A Great Day.



Brigitte Benquet said...

Nobody is a jerk, although we all behave like one periodically. I probably would have done the same thing you did. "Only love clarifies our vision".

Brigitte Benquet said...

Nobody is a jerk, although we all behave like one periodically. I probably would have done the same thing you did. "Only love clarifies our vision".

Outsource Call Center said...

Nice post! and I agree to you Customer Service Tip: Do not call a customer a "jerk" I believe that treating the customer so politely makes them so comfortable with your services.