Caribbean

Handling an irate passenger

Airplane

Recently  I was on a flight in the Caribbean and witnessed an incident involving a non-Caribbean family and a Flight Attendant. I observed how it was handled and will share some pointers on what could have been done differently to ensure the situation did not escalate. 

The passenger boarded at the rear of the plane with his family, which included small children. My attention was called to them when I heard the passenger shout “how many times do I have to show them? I just showed the man down there!!”

Apparently, he was irate at having to again show his boarding pass, which he had already shown the airport security personnel at the bottom of the stairs. The Flight Attendant’s voice became somewhat raised as she asked the gentleman again for the passes, which had the seat assignments on them. During this time, other passengers were waiting to board and  some of those already on board were waiting to use the washroom. The incident continued for what I would consider longer than acceptable. 

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Responsiveness

One of the five dimensions of the SERVQUAL model of Service Quality is Responsiveness. The usual explanation of this dimension is “the willingness to help customers and to provide prompt service,” suggesting that it is applicable to a real time service experience. After an incident at the supermarket one day, I chose to test their degree of Responsiveness over 24 hours.

At the cashier check out station near to closing time, she tried every code she could and none worked for the Sunflower Seeds I had picked up. She left the station, went to look at other packs, spoke with another employee, then came back and apologized, saying she could not sell it because the code was not in the machine.

I had to go back into that supermarket the next day, so decided to test their responsiveness by picking up the Sunflower Seeds again. Success! I was a happy customer. 

Imagine if the cashier on the first night had passed on the issue, and the responsible person did not take action. Of if the cashier did not pass on the problem at all. The customer would have noticed it. The challenge of leaders is to let each employee see how their action directly impacts on service. On this occasion, there was a positive outcome. When I next see her, I will definitely congratulate her on the action she took. 

What are you doing to ensure that your employees are responsive?

Two Good Customer Service Experiences

We should always celebrate when we get good service as customers, since there are so many complaints to be heard about poor dealings by providers. Here are my two experiences, which I was happy with.

TOTAL GAS STATION

Went for gas and I remembered that the last time I was there, the Attendant told me oil was a bit low but it didn’t have to be topped up yet. Today I asked the Attendant (a different one) to check it for me. While he was doing that, I took out extra money for a tip – the regular amount I would give for such service. Yes, I know, they will tell you that it is a part of the station’s service but sometimes I give a little extra.

After he finished checking the oil (“it can go a bit still”), I noticed that he went over to the other side of the car’s engine area. I asked if it was the battery he was checking. He said no, it was the Coolant. Then he said he was going to check the Transmission fluid. I thought “wow….others might have just checked what I asked to be done.” So I doubled the tip. 

During this service encounter, he also informed me that the station was now being operated by Total again, as the Dealer had given back the station. He then told me what the gas price was before, and what the lower price is now. This was after he told me that they were out of oil. He told me that there was another gas station nearby which would have it, if I wanted to get it today. So he was also informative.

When I was leaving, he wished me a good day and added “drive safely.” Definitely two thumbs up.

ELECTRO-WORLD

During Christmas shopping in this store, I bought an HDMI cable. The last time I bought one, it had regular straight ends. The Attendant suggested I buy one where one end is perpendicular because depending on the positions of some televisions, the straight end one may not work. Not sure why I listened to him. I went back to Grenada and when I tried to attach the cable, it would not fit, based on the design of the back of my TV. By now, I had thrown away the receipt and the packaging.

On the off chance that the owners would be reasonable, I carried it back to Jamaica. The lady who I first dealt with first made it sound like it would be impossible. She asked for both the receipt and packaging as they wouldn’t know how much it cost. I asked her if she couldn’t use the current price. I think maybe she thought I wanted the money back. So I explained that I wanted an exchange.

She then asked the boss and he too asked for receipt and packaging. I told him that I didn’t expect it not to work and that I don’t keep receipts for any length of time. He also commented on not knowing the price to put back in the system etc. I asked him to do the best that he could do and so I got back the straight end cable, without the receipt and without the packaging. It was a very cordial conversation. 

So I was very pleased with both encounters. The gas station is one I go to all the time, so I will continue going of course. I wouldn’t go to Electro-World very often but certainly if I have any electronic needs, that will be my first option because they gave me, the customer, what I wanted. 

Do you say any of these to your employees?

Entrepreneur magazine published this article by Lindsay Broder which discusses 7 things you should never say to your employees. Be honest. Have you ever said any of them in the heat of an interaction with your employees? I have heard many mangers say #1 “I’m the boss. Do as I say.”  Perhaps early in my managerial career, I might have been guilty of that too. However, as I focussed on my personal development, I realized that I had to find other ways to influence the employees I managed to do their assigned tasks….and willingly, so that customer service could be at the desired standard.

I recall having success where I managed a team, most of whom were much older than me, were unionized and were generally seen by others as the ‘bad eggs’ in the company. Treating each as a human and an individual, I set out to find what made them tick, what their hot buttons were and ways which made them shine. I guess I realized I was successful, mostly, when I received an award for my leadership of that team.

My feeling is that if managers have to resort to any of these 7 phrases or retorts, then they themselves have some work to do on their skills. I am not saying that all managers have to be perfect, however, they should certainly try to better tomorrow, than they were yesterday. Read more, try new things, hire professionals like us to help identify the issues and suggest solutions.

Commit to avoid saying any of these phrases to your employees. They will appreciate you for it and your customer service delivery will improve.

Empathy in Customer Service

I was on a flight within the Caribbean, and observed a very interesting exchange between a Flight Attendant and a young mother, which could be used as a case-study in Customer Service training programmes.

The young mother was travelling with a 15-month-old toddler, who had been keeping her very busy for the duration of the four-hour flight.  She had to use various means to keep him entertained. He just would not fall asleep…..and why should he? It was the middle of the afternoon and there were much more interesting things to do and see than sleep!

Midway through the flight, the passenger took some sweet biscuits from her bag and gave to her son.  Not even 20 minutes after, he threw them all up.  Immediately, the section of the plane we both were in, reeked of vomit.  The two male passengers beside her seemed to be taking it in stride.  From my vantage point behind them, there was no adverse reaction from either of them, and they even seemed empathetic towards the mother.

Responding to the Call Button, the flight attendant came to see what the problem was.  The passenger told her that her son had thrown up. She also mentioned that it needed to be cleaned up. 

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Getting the word out

I was on foot for part of today while my car’s air conditioning system got a check up. In the Caribbean, it is ESSENTIAL to have a proper working air conditioning system in one’s car. Walking the island’s streets certainly confirmed that!

As I walked along, I noticed things that I wouldn’t normally have seen while driving. And I also saw many persons who I haven’t seen in some time. Since this is a new venture, I have decided that I will tell everyone I meet that I am now freelancing, providing training and human resource development services to small and medium sized companies in the Caribbean.

I stopped in by office of the sister of a friend. She works in Accounting and so has to visit several companies on the island each year. As I normally do, I ended my spiel with “so if you know any company which would benefit from my services, please think about me.”. Her response? “All of them!”

Seriously though, I am sure there are lots of them who are doing a good job in customer service and human resource development and when I see those examples, I will be sure to get the word out. 

Another gem about service during Cricket World Cup

Caribbean people don’t like anyone from outside the region to criticize aspects of life in this part of the world. That’s reserved for Caribbean people! We do a great job of cussing each other.  

So when a non-Caribbean writer wrote about an unpleasant incident a few years before the 2007 Cricket World Cup, he was “taken on” by various and sundry who sought to defend what it meant to be a Caribbean person.

It provided fodder for another article entitled Opportunity vs Nightmare. What do you think?