fighting the lack of good ideas

the ‘benefits’ of being friendly

Coming home from Hartford this week, my wife and I got stranded in Detroit (ok, so DTW is in Romulus… but whatever). Our flight into DTW from BDL was delayed a bit, but we still had ~40 minutes to get to our flight to Lexington. However, when we landed we found out that the flight home had been canceled due to winter weather around CVG and LEX (while the accumulations weren’t real high, the winds and low visibility made us happy they had canceled our flight).

Being stranded at an airport is something I have had to deal with on a couple occasions before (once even at DTW 2 years back), but never with anyone other than myself… and never with an important appointment the next day: my wife was slated to have lasik Friday afternoon.

Thanks to Delta’s newer ticketing system, all you have to do if your flight is canceled is to head to a self-service kiosk, scan your boarding pass, and get the new one printed-out. We decided to speak to one of the Delta customer service representatives, though, because neither of us was thrilled with the idea of being stuck in Detroit, and were hoping there might be some form of compensation (even a meal voucher) offered for the weather inconvenience.

Turns out, that when you’re friendly to the customer service folks (whether they be dedicated representatives, gate agents, or flight attendants), they can be quite nice back. When our boarding passes were scanned for our replacements, two hotel vouchers (one for each delayed passenger) and four meal vouchers printed as well! That was pretty cool, and from the automated system. The part about being friendly and asking nicely for a little help that came next was even better: Delta has “toiletries” bags for stranded passengers that include a disposable razor, toothbrush, laundry detergent, toothpaste, and a t-shirt. However, like with many other “perks” – it is up to the discretion of the customer service rep as to whether or not to hand out these “add-ons”. Our guy was very pleasant, and gave both my wife and I one. And told us where we needed to go to find the hotel shuttle that would bring us to the Best Western International Gateway hotel (which, on a side note, was the absolute BEST Best Western I have EVER stayed in!)

I have worked customer service before (and in many ways still do in my current professional services role) – and it is truly astonishing how much better service you can get if you’re not rude to the guy trying to help you out. When I worked phone and email support several years ago, I was never unprofessional to any of my customers, but some definitely received more elaborate responses because they didn’t start off with an antagonistic stance.

For years I have made it a priority every time I come in contact with a “service” representative (waiter/waitress, cashier, ticket agent, nurse, tech support, etc, etc) to be polite to them. If I have a problem, I always try to make it not sound like their fault when I can, and I try my best to be patient with them knowing that regardless of how much I may dislike the broccoli rabe they brought instead of my carrots which I ordered, it probably wasn’t intentional; or that it wasn’t their idea to have a swirling snowstorm ground all traffic into a particular region for the night.

I haven’t been as perfect on this front as we all should be, but a little smile and a polite word can go a very, VERY long way 🙂