I just got home from the Great Christmas Migration of 2008. Tom and I are bicoastal. His family is in Pennsylvania and mine is in San Diego. Both demand our presence (and presents) at Christmas. This gives us plenty of chances to enjoy the fun of air travel and to meet interesting and helpful people along the way. This year instead of emulating the executives from the auto industry we decided to forgo taking the VMI company jet (Southwest, in our case), and instead flew our various journeys on a mainstream airline.
Christmas and the holidays are supposed to be the merriest time of year – so why is airline customer service the gloomiest? It starts with the smiling (not) faces at the airport check-in. The check-in staff is the frontline of the airline. They’re the first impression you get of the service you’re about to receive (or not). I’m sure that everyone has some part of their job they don’t like, but excuse me, sir, your job is to help me check in, tag my bags for the right airport, get them on the belt and tell me my gate number. If you don’t like that portion of your job, rotate to something else. Don’t make a face because my bag looks heavy or because I have two of them. Yes, I know you’re going to charge me to check them, but you don’t have to be so stern about it. I’m a customer not a prisoner (at least not until I board).
I think that being a nurse makes it difficult to sympathize with someone who’s upset about the fact that you asked for a second 4-ounce glass of lukewarm water. Look at what nurses do every day – change catheters, clean suppurating wounds and get sprayed by bodily fluids we shouldn’t discuss in mixed company (but still do). Some flight attendants really make me want to take their blood or at least stick them with an oversized needle. I feel like saying “Look lady, I asked you for a napkin – not to wipe my ass. Don’t act like you’re doing me a favor after taking 20 minutes to bring it. Yes, I know there are other passengers onboard, but right now you’re standing in the back of the plane kvetching about your upcoming layover in Poughkeepsie.”
It’s not just airlines that have bad service. Retail sales are down everywhere you go. ‘Blame the economy,’ you may say. If these retail employees keep it up, there won’t be any retail economy. I don’t know about you but I’m sick and tired of trying to give my hard-earned money to the lethargic, tattooed, multi-pierced cashier who’s on her cell phone. Or, the two salespeople talking to each other who act put out when you ask one of them to look in the back for a size 4. Try getting away with that type of behavior as a nurse. Can you imagine a patient saying, “Excuse me ma’am, I’m truly sorry to bother you, but I’m in desperate need of defibrillation. Would you please stop chatting about your ex and shock me back to life?”
In contrast, here I am at the Mecca of customer service – the Apple store on 5th Avenue in New York City. Like an airline, this store is open 24 hours a day and there’s usually a line to get inside. Unlike an airline, people wait patiently, even expectantly, because they know that once they get inside, the experience will be extraordinary. When’s the last time you heard someone say their flight or shopping experience was extraordinary unless they were talking about the extraordinary prices?
Apple sets the highest bar for customer service (plus the store is mad cool inside). Sales staff help you with your purchase and stay with you until you’re done shopping. They accompany you to the checkout line or point out one of the roaming check-out staffers who comes conveniently equipped with a wireless credit card machine. You walk up to any one with your purchase, joyfully swipe your credit card and get on your way without a hassle. My receipt is emailed to my BlackBerry® before I’m out the door!
Even if you don’t buy anything, staffers will patiently answer any question about all the cool stuff on display (and you get to play with it as long as you want). You can even make an appointment to bring in your computer, iPod or iPhone that you already paid for to get whatever service or training you need, including how to turn it on. The entire experience is exhilarating from the time you walk in until you leave. It makes me want to turn my whole office into Mac users. (Just kidding, Tom.)
I live by my rule, “do what’s right, not what’s easy.” A legal nurse consultant was complaining to me about something her attorney-client wanted her to research. He was off-base but demanding about it. She got angry with him and it may have cost her the relationship. I wanted to support her, but I couldn’t agree with her and said, “Remember, the attorney-client isn’t always right, but he’s still the attorney-client. Just be grateful he didn’t ask you to wipe his butt. If he’s paying you to do a job, it’s your job to do it and your duty to do it with a smile on your face (if not in your soul).”
Certified Legal Nurse Consultants exist because of our customers, attorneys. Aim to be more like an Apple store than a lemon airline.
Success Is Inside!