Flight delay. Angry travelers. Frustrated airline employees.
A perfect recipe for brand disaster.
As I walked up to the airline employee at our gate, I could sense an unpleasant experience waiting to jump out at me from behind the counter. I asked for a flight update since I noticed that the time on the flight board for departure had long passed. The flustered service person behind the counter lashed out at me asking me to step aside and give her a few minutes.
I get it. It was busy, she was tired, and I’m sure she was being bombarded by other customers who were not too happy by the waves of delays.
An opportunity to shine.
Unfortunately for her, she missed out on an opportunity to thrive in the situation. She got distracted by the immediate pressures of the environment and failed to see the bigger picture. This chaotic moment was less about the delayed flight, but rather, how she might proactively strengthen the brand experience of the customers. She lost focus of the fact that people were not primarily frustrated with her. We knew she couldn’t change the situation. Most people there just needed assurance (and information) about what the airline was doing to remedy the situation.
In that moment, a smile and a willingness to regularly and transparently communicate could have diffused the situation for most of the customers. (I say most because some people will always find ways to stay angry and leverage the situation for benefits.) Being defensive and communicating frustration never helps if you’re representing a brand. A few kind words of acknowledging the frustrations of your customers and communicating your commitment to make things better goes a long way.
People understand that no company is perfect. It’s just makes them angry when companies come off as finger pointers rather than problem-solvers.
A little kindness in difficult situations goes a long way.