Flying into the New York area on a Friday afternoon is always risky business. There are usually delays because of air traffic or back up from the morning so my expectations were low that the flight would be on time. On the particular Friday in question, I was returning from a speaking engagement in Orlando. I knew the weather up north was also iffy so I assumed the plane wouldn’t depart on schedule. As I approached the gate and saw the aircraft already there, I did have a glimmer of hope.
The flight was supposed to leave at 3:25pm and boarding to begin at 2:40. At two o’clock the announcements began. But, instead of the “oh, no,” it was “ok” because of the customer service representative from the airline. In place of anguish, there was ease.
- His first words were, “I don’t want to hear any moans before I finish everything I have to say.” There were only laughs
- He explained that Newark airport is not like other airports; logistically its design makes it more challenging for air traffic controllers
- He continued with a detailed explanation and tutorial on how poor visibility reduces the number of planes that can depart and land
- He relayed that the pilot was in constant communication with the Newark airport. The hope was that the flight would take off at 5:00 pm instead of 3:30 and that his plans were to start the boarding process at 4:15, depart from the gate at 5:00 and be in the air at 5:30
- He told the passengers they could leave the gate area, but it was important to check back every 20 minutes because that would be the amount of time to board if the flight was released earlier than expected
- He explained that this flight was the next to Newark on any airline so that trying to switch flights would be a fruitless venture
- He gave hope to passengers with connecting flights saying that most likely all flights would be delayed and there was a good chance they might make theirs
- He ended the announcement with a quiz. Yes, a quiz. He asked everyone to answer when the flight was boarding, being released from the gate and taking off. Everyone shouted the answers. It was fun.
This customer service agent treated all the passengers in the waiting area like personal friends and he communicated bad news with a sense of humor, concern, empathy and respect. He educated everyone and provided us with additional useful information. He maintained confidence that he was in complete control of the situation.
I wanted to thank him personally for his customer care and service. By the time we were boarding, there wasn’t an opportunity. So if anyone from United Airlines can tell me who was that perfect company representative in Orlando, FL, Gate 43, Flight 1124 on May 9th, please do so. I’ll send him a copy of this blog and make his day as he made mine.
If every company hired agents who made each customer feel important, appreciated and valued by what they say and how they say it, they would fly much higher than their competitors.