Zen is you – Be.

The Customer is Always Right

Posted in stress relief by dave225 on October 1, 2008

Last week I had a great vacation in Corsica and the South of France.

The trip didn’t start out so relaxing though – The plane we took from Newark to Milan had an emergency landing in Bangor, Maine due to engine problems. Inconvenienced as we were, the passengers were all thankful to the skilled crew that successfully landed the plane with one engine. And the passengers were patient and jovial as 256 of us were herded into a tiny lounge in the Bangor International Airport. We were in fairly good spirits because the captain announced after we landed that a replacement jet would be flying up from Newark to pick us up and resume the flight to Milan. So we would get in 2 or 3 hours late – a small change of plans and, after all, things do happen and at least we made a safe landing.

Two hours passed. The latest news was that a plane was on its way from Houston. It would be awhile longer, but the fine folks at Continental will take the meals off the plane and feed us. Three hours. Four hours. 1:00am. Two planes are on the way to take us back to Newark. Continental agents will be on the flight to assist us in rebooking our flights. Well, that’s the rumor that’s going around. No one really knew for sure. One plane arrives to take the first class passengers back to Newark. The other plane is on its way. (right?) We finally make it back to Newark at 4:30am. No Continental agents flew up to Bangor to assist us – but maybe that’s understandable; they would have taken up seats on the plane and since international flights always leave in the evening, we weren’t going anywhere for awhile anyway. (That bit of fact was easily dismissed by the now irate passengers.)

When we got back to Newark and got off the plane, we .. um .. didn’t really know where to go? Passengers meandered around, looking for a Continental representative to assist in rebooking our travel plans. Or maybe at least someone to direct us? Somewhere? Most of us went our own ways, asking random Continental employees for help. Some of them, I must say, were very helpful people. I think some people are just that way. I don’t think that they learned it from Continental’s training program because a very similar thing occurred as we flew with Continental from Costa Rica two years ago.

Which brings me to the focus of this post – As passengers became more and more frustrated with Continental’s system – or I should say: lack of a system – (Really, all anyone was looking for was some consistent answers, and then for those answers to be accurate – I.e. A PLAN) – anyway .. as all of the passengers were milling about, demanding help from a bewildered (and small) staff that walked into an ambush at work that day, there was one woman who swaggered into the area, barking, “I don’t want to hear about it!” She was the supervisor. As the first of many passengers gave her the third degree (which I’ll not defend either as being a good approach), she replied sternly with, “Don’t yell at me! I’ve been up since 1:00am babysitting this flight! It’s not my fault!” I turned to her slowly and said calmly, “It’s more your fault than it is theirs.” and turned back around. Two things. #1 – Up since 1:00 am and there’s still no organization? #2 – Take some ownership of the screw up. The customer is ALWAYS right – even if the customer is not morally right, when they walk away from your business (or you send them away), they are no longer your customer.

The “zen” in this lesson regards how that woman must have felt the rest of the day. She may have spent the rest of her day in a sour mood, clinging to the certainty that the passengers were all stupid and if they only knew how what she had to go through. Well, the customers don’t care. And when customers are angry, the last thing they want to hear about is how the employees have had a hard day. When your business involves serving people, a successful day is helping the people who patronize your business. And you should walk away at the end of the day knowing that you did that part of your job well. That’s not just for the health of your business, but for your own peace of mind.

Incidentally, I did make it a point to thank the employees who were helpful and empathize with their situation, as did some of the other passengers. And I hope they left at the end of the day knowing that people appreciated their work.

2 Responses

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  1. Rarin said, on October 2, 2008 at 3:05 am

    I hope you at least had a good vacation in the south of France. Pics?
    btw – love the zen blog – am ur newest blog stalker!

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