Blog Archives

Getting Past “If they only knew”

Recently I’ve been hearing phrases excuseslike “If they only knew how difficult” or “If they only knew how complicated”. Usually, the phrase is spoken in reference to some demand for service that someone is having trouble meeting and is used almost as an excuse for not being able to live up to expectations.

Typically, explaining how busy you are, how short staffed you are, or how complicated the task is, is perceived as an excuse. Modern customers don’t want to hear it. Barring some major “catastrophe” like a flu epidemic they don’t care that your organization didn’t hire enough people to get the job done. In their mind, that’s your problem and they’re not willing to make your problem their problem. There are almost always constraints or obstacles to performing any worthwhile task. Whether they are legal, political, procedural, fiscal, or even psychological, there are factors that make what would otherwise be a simple task, more difficult. Any dispatcher worth his or her salt can list at least 10 constraints off the top of their head. Read the rest of this entry

The Lost Customer

customer serviceA few months ago I wrote about a very progressive staff “play day” I witnessed during a layover at LaGuardia airport. Soon after I had another layover at New York City’s oldest airport; the negative experience there has inspired this post.

On a hot and humid July afternoon, I had almost two hours to wait due to a flight delay. Unfortunately the air conditioning system was not working which made the wait especially painful. There were many angry and frustrated passengers, most of whom had no choice but to be resigned to sweating it out and hoping they could make their flight connections at the next airport. We all crowded into the waiting area of our assigned gate listening for updates on the status of our flight. There was a single fan aimed in our general direction which provided very limited relief from the New York summer heat. Then, to my surprise, one of the airline employees picked up that fan and repositioned it to aim at the two agents working at the service counter. I was amazed at the brazen disregard for us and I mentioned it, probably a bit too loudly, to the gentleman sitting next me. As it turned out, that comment started a chain of events which ultimately led to a small uprising, that fan being redirected back towards the customers, and another fan being brought in and aimed at us as well. Read the rest of this entry

Living Compliance

I talk about compliance a lot, but don’t always think about what it means in a practical or personal sense. I actively seek to comply always with my value system. On the other hand, I know I don’t always comply with posted speed limits. I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about being a “victim” of someone else’s duty to comply – that is, until a Southwest flight I took from Kansas City to Chicago last week to work with a major school bus company.

Last Wednesday, President Obama was in my new home town to deliver an 11 am speech. I had a 12:40 flight out of KCI. The Southwest gate agent stressed that we’d be striving for an efficient boarding process; the incoming plane we’d be on was a few minutes late, and passengers would be de-planing and airline staff cleaning the plane as quickly as possible. The urgency was the need to take off before the “VIP traffic” at the airport – it didn’t take much to figure out what that was about – caused the airport to close down to incoming or outbound traffic. Such closure would be for an indeterminate length of time. So, Southwest’s usual standard of on-time departure meant even more than usual to the airline and to the passengers on my completely full flight, many of whom had connections to make at Chicago’s Midway Airport. Read the rest of this entry

Observations from a Dependent Home-Owner

Just as I’m willing to acknowledge my skills and accomplishments, I am comfortable admitting my short suits and failures. From time to time I’ve shared that I’ve always worked outside my home because I’m so much more confident in my professional arena than I am in certain areas of my personal arena. My husband and grown children seem to think I’ve done a pretty good job but, even they would admit I lack much ability to diagnose, repair, or evaluate some essential technology-dependent functions in my home. That’s why the company that provides me with a “bundle” of phone service, TV, and internet is such a part of my life – I’m dependent upon them for communication, entertainment and research. And I have disliked them intensely because, during the last 3 or 4 months, they’ve all but taken over my life – not just a part of it. Allow me to vent (by the way – they don’t seem to want to hear me vent when I call, and, 5 times out of 6, struggle to find my 2-year account, and totally overlook that they’re hardly the only show in town, and I could easily switch to a competitor. And we plan to!) Read the rest of this entry

The Guts to Really Be Fair, Firm, and Consistent

One of the workshop sessions I particularly enjoy teaching is a class for new supervisors/directors. Usually attendees are eager and even anxious to learn the “tips of the trade.” There are always some “veterans” attendees who are there to be reminded of why they do what they do. Then there is the occasional “wily” veteran who is really there to “catch” the presenter in a contradiction or error.

Early in a recent session we talked about choosing your battles. That is, an effective manager can’t do everything at once, or certainly can’t do it effectively. In fact, if the manager has his/her proverbial finger in every pie it can really hurt the operation.  It negatively impacts morale, staff development, and overall performance. Read the rest of this entry

The Power and Folly of Sorry

As I stood waiting in line to register at a hotel, I had time to think about the often uttered but seldom meant “I’m sorry.” Contrary to Elton John’s assertion (“Sorry seems to be the hardest word,”) this one customer service agent seemed to be a master at it. He would draw closer to the customer and quietly say “I’m so sorry.” Every once in a while he’d add the words “for your inconvenience.” If the customer was really irate he might even offer them a free soda or chocolate bar. Read the rest of this entry

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