Photo by shygantic
Another example of how NOT to treat your customers
My flight home was overbooked. Several people voluntarily bumped to later flights for the compensation offer, but the plane was still oversold. I managed to grab an aisle seat next to a nice woman who had claimed the window position. We joked about hoping for a skinny person to board and take that middle seat.
Several minutes later, it was clear that the only person standing was a lumbering line-backer of a college kid. I’m a big guy, but this guy looked like he ate me. He asked for the seatbelt extender and squeezed into our middle seat with some obvious embarrassment. The window lady and I made cheerful small talk in an effort to relieve him. We were cool with it and just wanted to get home.
Then a flight attendant appeared with great fanfare and loudly announced to the lady and I that he would fix everything. He told the linebacker that he was going to kick someone else off the plane and move him to an emptier row. Before we could object, the attendant was gone. The lady and I locked eyes, and it was obvious we shared the same awful feelings.
The attendant soon returned and handed the kid a slip of paper. “Here are some new policies you’ll want to consider before flying with us again.”
I glanced at it and quickly forced myself to look away. I’m pretty sure it said something about fat people needing to purchase 2 seats. The kid was already humiliated before they forced him to walk the trail of shame to the front of the plane.
Southwest took a very analytical approach to this situation. They gave all sorts of logical reasons to justify this policy. “It’s only fair for folks who buy a ticket and expect a whole seat.” for instance. Ok, fine. But when the rubber hits the road, your customer is an individual human with feelings. I just don’t understand how that flight attendant can sleep at night.
Personal takeaway: I can layout all the fancy best practices and (shudder) policies that I like. They can even be logical and statistically accurate for most situations. But… in those times when I do need to break some bad news in order to help a customer reach greater success, I have to remember that there is a real person with real feelings on the other end.
A little humanity goes a long way.