Saturday, April 23, 2011

It's All About Attitude

Not unexpectedly, my circuitous route from Alaska to my home in Maryland hit a severe snag with ugly weather. By the time I arrived in Chicago to connect with my last flight home, the flight to my home airport was canceled.

I kinda figured this would happen.

I was not the only one in this situation. Most flights for the remainder of the night were canceled. Hundreds of people got stuck in this unfortunate situation.

I observed many people becoming upset and angry, which caused the airline representatives to respond in-kind. Bad behavior begets bad behavior, so it seems. While being delayed and stuck overnight isn't fun, it is not the airline's fault. Yelling at them, demanding that "I have to get home for [insert lame excuse]" does not help anyone.

When I arrived in Chicago and saw that lovely word "canceled" next to my flight number, instead of going ballistic, I found a quiet place and called the airline. I was pleasantly surprised that a real human picked up the phone after I pressed zero at the automated annoyance (sometimes called "automated attendant" or "call router.") While the agent began her conversation with me intensely, expecting that I was going to yell, I maintained my composure. I simply said, "I was on flight number ### which has been canceled. Have I been automatically rebooked or will you rebook me?" A few keystrokes on her computer later, I got the last seat on the first flight out in the morning. Had I waited in line at the ticket counter, goodness knows what flight (next week?) I might have gotten stuck on.

However, I still had to wait in that long line to get a discount coupon for a hotel stay. While the airline will not pay for a hotel room if the flight is canceled due to weather, they often have negotiated rates with major hotels, so it is worth it to wait (and wait and wait and wait) to get that coupon.

Five ticket agents were helping customers at the ticket counter. The line was moving slowly. I observed that the agents were just nasty. Some of them made snarky comments that, in my humble opinion, were not deserved. Sure, the jerk who yelled at one of them needed to be dealt with in accordance with his negativism -- but the rest of us do not deserve to be treated as if we will all act like that.

While waiting in line, I observed two agents say loudly, "I'm off shift" and walked away. It is a very sad situation when any airline does something like that. They know they have a lot of customers who are unhappy. Abandoning them that way -- even if the shift is over -- is a poor way to maintain any form of customer relations.

When I finally got to the ticket counter, I smiled a big, broad smile and said, "I'm sorry about this situation. I have gotten rebooked, so I am only seeking a hotel discount coupon." The agent was so surprised that I was smiling and nice about it, she called the hotel to make sure they had a room for me, and then gave me a voucher for breakfast at the airport. She said that she knew that the hotel offered free breakfast, but did not start to serve breakfast until 7am. My flight is at 6am. She figured out that I wouldn't get the free breakfast, so she helped me out. I thanked her profusely. She said that she did it because "you were the first nice customer I've had all night."

Hmmm... there's a lesson here.

I waited for the hotel shuttle, got to the hotel, checked my email and wrote this post, then crashed into bed.

I hope to be home on the day this post appears on this blog. Wish me luck!

Life is short: you can get better service if you maintain composure and be pleasant -- even in unpleasant situations.

1 comment:

Tef said...

Nothing like being nice to the people from whom you expect help to come from.

Being nice while on the road goes a long way, as many enlightened frequent travellers find out.