Written By: Tom Ogg, Co-Owner -Travel Professional NEWS®
“Sorry Ladies and Gentlemen, it looks like we will be held here waiting for maintenance to make a minor repair before we take off.” Joanie and I were on an Alaska Air flight departing at 10:20 am from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta. “Well Ladies and Gentlemen, Maintenance tells us it may be up to an hour before they have it repaired” the Captain said. “If anyone would like to deplane while the work is in process, fell free to do so” Joanie and I decided to deplane.
The gate agent was very receptive and apologetic, but advised everyone to stay near the gate to board once the aircraft was repaired. To make a long story short, we were stuck in SAN for 5 1/2 hours before they bought in a third aircraft to take us to Mexico.
You would think everyone would be furious at the delay and complaining all the way to Mexico, right? But, such was not the case. Alaska Air could not have handled it better. They emailed lunch vouchers to the entire light so that they could enjoy some lunch while waiting for the flight.They kept us advised with truthful information making it much easier to plan everyone’s time in the San Diego Airport. They reached out to transfer companies, hotels and such on behalf of passengers and were there every bit of the way to help passengers accommodate the change.
Once in the air the Captain announced that the bar was open on Alaska Air’s expense and that every passenger would be receiving a refund in the shape of a future flight discount. Alaska Air turned what could have been a total disaster into a fun and rewarding experience with great customer service. So I thought I would share how to provide top notch customer service to your clients.
Develop a Customer Service Attitude
Most airlines that I have flown on that have had flight delays are just not honest. Worse, the counter agents become defensive and some are downright offensive. Teach yourself to smile when approached by a client with a problem or complaint. The reason they are approaching you is they would like a solution, not a confrontation. Be respectful and calm. Nothing will stop an aggressive client faster than a smile and a consoling voice.
Listen With Understanding
Always use the perspective of hearing the customer’s complaint as if it were happening to you. Sure, clients may be upset about something, but responding in an understanding and empathic manner will always calm the client and make them realize that you really do care. Roll playing is an excellent way to build this skill. Have someone pretend to be an irate client and then do your very best to neutralize the client using a calm and understanding demeanor. Use “I understand” and then restate what the complaint is in an empathetic tone. Remember the old adage “The Customer is Always Right.”
Be Highly Responsive
In the case of Alaska Air, they made themselves available to help passengers contact their transfer companies, hotels, people meeting them at the airport and so on. Anyone that had a problem that was created by the mechanical and subsequent delayed flight was helped as much as possible. Responding to your customer in a positive and helpful manner focused on his or her specific problem, will gain the confidence of the client and turn dissatisfaction into the start of a trusting relationship.
Be Transparent and Explain What is Going On
This was one of Alaska Air’s finest qualities during the 5 1/2 hour delay. From the initial announcement that there was a mechanical, they explained what was happening and why. At all times the gate agent explained the current situation and what to expect. This made it so much easier to plan how we spent our time in the wonderful San Diego Airport. They always posted new departure times as soon as they could estimate when it might happen. Transparency is vital to great customer service.
Communicate, Communicate and then Communicate Some More
Virtually everyone uses a smart phone and Alaska Air took advantage of this by delivering updates, new departure times and meal vouchers to all of the passengers. Think about how technology can help you communicate with your clients. Texting, email, telephone and WhatsApp are all options. Find out which your clients prefer to communicate with and accommodate their preference.
Do What You Say You Are Going To Do
Always do what you have said you will do and the client will appreciate your efforts on their behalf. Nothing can create more aggravation for a client than getting the feeling that you are just trying to placate them without actually confronting the issue on their behalf. Always report your activity on the client’s behalf to the client and let them know where the issue stands.
Your Mistake? Own it With Humility
For the most part, customer service is required when a supplier makes an error or has delays. But, if you are the cause of the problem, own up to it, apologize and let the client know that you will make it right. Understand that this is your opportunity to prove to the client that they made the right decision in selecting you for their travel transaction. Any hint of arrogance will cost you that client’s business and their close friends, as well.
When the crisis is behind you and the client has been satisfied be sure to follow up. Make sure that he or she is actually truly satisfied with the outcome of the issue. This can be accomplished by a customer satisfaction survey. However always deliver the survey with some sort of incentive to complete it. Just sending a survey and asking for your client’s time to complete it is invasive. Send the survey with a $5.00 bill mentioning that their time is worth money and their opinions are very important to you.
Build Your Relationship For a Client For Life
During the customer service process you should have learned a great deal about your client. This information is invaluable in developing a long term relationship. Be sure to capture it in your CRM. The result of quality customer service is a client