Sorry for the “glass half empty” headline…..but it is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately. What prompted it? I guess it began last Sunday as I was starting out on my journey to Las Vegas. I made my way to Grande Prairie to catch my flight to Edmonton so that I could attend IMEX12 in Las Vegas that began the next morning. I checked in early, made my way through security without a hitch and then sat comfortably waiting for my flight to depart. Boarding began promptly on time and the pre-board passengers formed a line out the long glass enclosed walk way, ready to make their way on board the aircraft.
At this point I noticed that no one was moving. Everyone was just standing in the walk way waiting. After a few moments, one of the airline staff ushered everyone back inside with the news that there was a mechanical issue that was going to necessitate a mechanic taking a look, and that he would be there in about 20 minutes. Knowing that I only had 1 hour and 30 minutes between connections, I grew concerned that my time had now been reduced. Of course, I completely understood that safety is paramount and that it was necessary to make certain that the aircraft was repaired, but deep down I felt a little bit of anxiety. Not long after, another announcement was made that it was going to take a wee bit longer. Sadly, at this point I knew that I probably would not make my connection to Las Vegas that night.
I had no control over the situation and I was disappointed.
Thankfully, the aircraft did get repaired and we did depart for Edmonton, however it wasn’t in time to make my Las Vegas connection. Upon arrival in Edmonton, staff provided vouchers for a hotel, taxi shuttles and meal vouchers and we (there were about 7 of us that were en route to Vegas) were booked on the next flight to Las Vegas that was departing the following morning.
I was completely looked after but….I still couldn’t shake my disappointment. I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to meet my friends for dinner that evening; I was disappointed that I was going to lose one entire evening in Vegas; I was disappointed that I was going to miss a whole morning of sessions that I had counted on attending.
It made me realize something: You cannot put a price-tag on disappointment especially if it is a disappointing experience. When emotions and expectations are involved, it can become a customer service nightmare to try to make someone happy.
This revelation is important for those of us in the event or customer service industry. Having empathy for your attendee or customer is paramount in understanding what they are feeling when their expectations are not met. Realizing that even when you have provided everything you can during a negative situation, disappointment is a powerful emotion that will remain.
Some helpful tips for dealing with a customer service crisis:
Have Empathy: Defined as - Understanding and acknowledging feelings and needs.
Engage Empathetic Listening: Listening with your ears and eyes (expressions, body language)
Sincerely respond with empathetic statements: “I would be unhappy too if I missed my connection. I can understand your frustration”.
Giving front line staff the power to be creative with problem solving: When you can enable front line staff with the ability to create unique customer service crisis management strategies, it illustrates that the customer is unique, is special.