Okay, to be fair, I considered some pretty harsh headlines for this post.
“Really? Your life cannot be that horrible” was one of them. I also contemplated using, “I’m the one being asked to remove my shoes and belt.”
Why such a title? You guessed it. I’m writing this from gate B3 at O’hare International Airport. And the headline I finally arrived at is a direct reflection of my experience with the disgruntled TSA agent today. It’s not a new story, and it certainly isn’t exciting. She was mad, frustrated, or generally unhappy. Perhaps she has encountered inexperienced travelers today. Maybe she is working an extra shift. Or, quite possibly, her airport lunch didn’t meet her expectations. Nonetheless, she was not having it today. And by ‘it’, I mean “general happiness and smiling customers.
That’s right. Today, the customers were all jovial, accommodating, and generally happy people, all trying to make it to their destinations. I was one of those. Shoes removed, belt in the bin, and smile upon my face. I was headed to sunny Florida (for work), where I would soon encounter a 57 degree temperature increase. Bring it.
But, Helga (not her real name) wasn’t interested. She was barking orders, and scowling at the floor. Not making eye contact, not smiling. Barely communicating. In fact, Helga was pretty much yelling at us. We know the rules. We are at the United Premier Access security line. This is not our first rodeo, Helga.
Now- I value the presence of safety officers. I think we all do. And I am sure it’s not the most rewarding career on the planet. But Helga was convinced we were all school children who needed reprimanding.
Keeping It Real
Here’s the thing: just yesterday I gathered our entire creative team to discuss the importance on quality customer service. Not that the team needed this reminder. In fact, much of our time together was sent commending individuals for value-added productivity and communication that is making our work so much fun. But I wanted to be sure we understood how important the customer is to the work we do.
Every task we tackle, every piece of fancy art we create, every video, photo and story we dream up means little if the client isn’t satisfied and thrilled with the work. And, as a pleaser myself, I can say I have a hard time sleeping at night when the customer is less than thrilled with my work. But it goes beyond the finished project. Customer satisfaction begins at the beginning.
There’s a reason every meeting in our office includes a pot of freshly-brewed (freshly roasted) coffee at the table. It’s right to offer your guests a beverage and a comfy place to sit for the next 30-40 minutes together. I would do the same in my own home. But it starts even before that.
It’s starts at “hello.”
That smile that greets the welcome is also paramount. Every step of the way, a friendly smile is the perfect accompaniment to a quality customer-client relationship. Now, video meetings and phone calls and emails may make that difficult, so when we are face-to-face, it is vital that we look each other in the eyes (“heads up, Helga”) and acknowledge the humanity in our brothers and sisters around us.
Helga was having issues, yes. But I decided to respond with the only tool I had in that moment. I ignored Helga’s barking, and waited for her to make eye contact with me. Then I blasted her with a smile, and said, “Thanks, Helga.” That was enough for me. I doubt it made much difference to her. But, as humans – we saw each other. Then we moved on with our days. That’s enough for now.