“I’m closed. I’ve worked my eight hours.”
We get to the curb check our bags standard GREAT skycap service It’s Saturday night, and we’re flying to Las Vegas for a weekend of fun.
Go inside to the First Class/Dividend Preferred line. That’s the place US Airways has set aside for their BEST customers. There is only one agent helping the customers in First Class (several other agents are down about 50 feet in coach), and she has just finished up with someone. I’m next. I’m ready. She spends a few minutes folding documents, chatting away with the airport security officer, folding more papers… NEVER LOOKING UP.
About 6 minutes have gone by and we have yet to be acknowledged. She finally begins counting money, by this time Teresa and I are getting annoyed. Teresa, the least volatile one on or our team, goes up to the counter and politely asks the ticket agent if she is still open.
Paula D. states that she is “closed” and that someone else will be helping us and goes back to counting and folding. NOTE: We have been standing there on line all this time and she hasn’t even looked up. Now, she is (was) the only agent in the First Class line. There are 5 other agents trying to help 3040 people waiting in the coach line. You see it’s esaver day, and it’s Easter weekend, and a lot of people are traveling.
I walk up to the counter and tell her I would like to check in. “My eight hour shift is over, I’ve worked enough today,” Paula D. said with total disdain. “Someone else will help you.”
“Like who?” I wondered aloud. “Someone down there,” and she pointed down the line to the coach agents who were bursting at the seams.
I say, “Could I speak with your supervisor?” She mumbles, “He’ll be here in a few minutes,” and leaves. Now there is no one to serve their “best” customers, and this woman could care less her shift was over and as far as she was concerned, I could walk to Las Vegas.
Five minutes later, a guy named Robert T. (US Airways doesn’t give their last names like it’s a secret) appears about 5 minutes later. His first words were, “Someone wanted to speak to a Supervisor?” I jump in, “I don’t really need a Supervisor, I just need to check in.” And I wanted to know why the
ticket lady had just walked away, and talk to him about the way we were treated: Unacknowledged. I told him the title of my column this week was going to be, “I’ve already worked my 8 hour shift”
“You’re certainly free to say whatever you want,” he said without an ounce of concern. (believe me, I’m not saying half of what I want. In part because there are some wonderful people at US Airways, and in part because their upper management is allowing this to happen as a matter of course.)
I asked Robert T. if he thought this was the BEST way the agent could have handled this situation? He replied that obviously we could see that they were suffering from the “Easter Flu.” Implying that many of the US Air employees had called in sick because of the Easter holiday. He also mentioned that this particular employee had child care issues and tried to make us feel guilty for just wanting to be waited on. His attitude was at best, contrite.
Robert T. also felt obligated to tell us that the curbside skycaps should have NOT checked our bags because we had changed our reservations, and he would reprimand them personally. Great Robert, be sure to spread your managerial joy all over (NOTE: I checked the rules, Robert was wrong).
Why didn’t this guy just grab our tickets, welcome us, thank us for our business, and check us in himself? He could have handled the situation. Oh, I forgot he’s a MANAGER, not a WORKER. And, he didn’t care. Instead he made us wait another 5 minutes until another contrite person arrived at a computer terminal.
I ask the lady who is helping us, if they were really busy. She states that US Airways let a lot of people off early. I ask if anyone had called in sick. She stated no.
EPILOG: We get to the gate and low and behold, Paula D., the lady with child care issues, is waiting (as a nonrevenue passenger) to board our flight. Evidently her children are in Las Vegas.
REALITY: Not only were we poorly served, but the supervisor made a bad situation worse by lying to us about employees calling in sick, and the child care issue.
Pathetic service, liars, people with no concern for customers, people who act defensively, people who are poorly trained, and managers who are as bad
or worse than the line workers. And of course, US Airways has no competition in Charlotte. But hey, who cares they’re making a profit.
Here are the real reasons for their poor service… See if they apply to your business:
o Employees are there to “do their job,” and not to “serve the customer.”
o Employees are unaware of their surroundings, and only care about themselves and their timecard.
o Managers are taught to keep the problem going rather than trying to solve it. Like being defensive, talking “policy,” and telling “halftruths,” and of course trying to make sure that they do no work. They are too busy “managing” and abusing their one ounce of power.
NOTE WELL: This is not a US Airways slam. This is a lesson about choices and uninspiring leaders in tandem with poor training. The sad part is… this is not an isolated incident. As an everyday flyer, it happens to me about 25% of the time. Thank goodness the same thing isn’t true about their safe landing percentage. On that issue, 99% is unacceptable. Perhaps they should think about treating their customers on the ground the same as they do in the air.
Maybe they should look to upgrade their service rather than just upgrading my seat.
This is the first column I’ve ever written that ends in a prayer I pray that two people read this piece Stephen Wolf (US Airways CEO) and Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines CEO). Maybe when Southwest gets to Charlotte there will be a new line order people will finally be in front of profits.
Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible, and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. President of Charlottebased Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at 704/3331112 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org