More than a year ago I posted this article about how United Airlines was selling their customers on not choosing their airline by the way they handled people. They weren't doing it on purpose, it was just poor training. Today, at the US Airways check-in line at Laguardia, the experience wasn't just poor training, it was downright shocking! Here's what happened.
Airlines usually have a supervisor standing near the people in line, asking where they're going and what kind of ticket they have. Today, the supervisor asked a lady why she was in line (it seemed his purpose was to get people out of the line and using Kiosks) and she said she wanted to get wait listed for an upgrade. He said, "that takes too long, they're way to busy, so call 1-800-xxx-9999". She didn't have a cell phone. He said, "not my problem". She remained in the line which had 4 people in it at that point. When the supervisor saw that she was still in the line he went to his agents and said, "when this lady gets to the counter I don't want you to wait on her. She wants to get wait listed, so I gave her the phone number and she's being a pain in the ass. Don't help her."
It's awfully hard to be a pain in the ass customer when you don't complain or demand anything. This lady wasn't guilty of anything and there wasn't much else for her to do. The supervisor wasn't the least bit nice, and he didn't think it was his job to find a way to help his customers. Actually, he thought it was his job to keep his agents from being busy. What a proponent of depersonalized service.
And that's what this post is all about. The more we depersonalize everything, the more we rely on kiosks, the more we use automated phones, and the more we get angry when people don't want to use our well thought-out costly processes, the more we succeed at selling our customers on not doing business with us anymore. And whether it's selling them to do business with us, selling them on continuing to do business with us or selling them on never doing business with us again, it's still selling.
Last night upon my arrival at Laguardia, my limo driver asked me to find him. Nice touch. Today my limo driver called to tell me he was at the front door of the hotel. When I told him I was at the banquet entrance he told me he would wait for me. I asked him if he would get me where I was waiting and he said he didn't know where it was. I suggested that if he drove the car around the building he might find it and he laughed at me. But I was probably being a pain in the ass.
(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan