July 24, 2007

Power & Success Meets the Friendly Skies (Conclusion)

Okay. I finally have on the right attitude, so now it's time to head to the customer service counter. In my head I'm going through "the script" that Hajii gave me. With all the overbooking issues, United Airlines' customer service counter had its hands full. The line was so long it spilled into the main terminal throughfare, but that's beside the point.

I had been placed on an alarmingly long waiting list, and luckily, the gate for the first available flight was strategically located next to the customer counter. So even though I had positioned myself in the customer service queue, I could keep tabs on my status on the waiting list. Either way I was settling in for possible hiberation. After 45 minutes, I had made it to the front of the line. I was the next person up when I heard my name sound over the loud speakers. Could this be possible? Could I have made it on the very next flight?

I run over to the gate counter and tell them that my name has been called. Upon confirming my identity, they tell me to run to the plane as the door is about to close. The agent hurriedly unlocks the door and runs with me to the plane. As quickly as I make it onto the plane, I just as quickly get kicked off. It turns out that the last passenger tally forgot to count a man in the lavatory. In other words, the plane was full. Unbelievable! I trudge over to the customer service line to find that have another 45 minute wait ahead me. However, I know I will prevail...it's just a matter of time.
Tension is high, attitudes are poor and there's screaming and yelling going on at the customer service counter. By the time I make it to the front of the line, I can tell the agents are at their wits end. While it may seem like the odds are against me, I feel confident that I will get results. Now would be a good time to share why I feel so confident. It has to do with the script and the strategy for getting amazing results at the customer service counter.
POWER LESSON #4: While it may be easy to believe that Customer Service people have absolutely no desire to help you, keep in mind that they are bombarded day in and day out with angry, frustrated people that practically enjoy unleashing large torrents of pain on them. Imagine if you had to do this job. Kindness is so rare for them that when it happens they almost have no idea to how to react. They also work ten times harder to meet your needs.
Okay, so I finally arrive at the customer service counter and begin spewing the script that I've been rehearsing. Study the following phrases and commit them to memory. They will serve you well. Start by describing your situation as calmly as possible. Then you will follow-up with the following phrases. Substitute your own circumstances for the words in parentheses.
"It's unfortunate that your company made the mistake that caused me [to miss my flight.] I am a loyal [American Airlines] customer, but could not [get a ticket from them] and thought I would give your company a try. Unfortunately, this has been a horrible experience for me. What are you going to do to convince me that I should [fly your airline] again?"
Then you follow-up with the following lines:
"Look, I know that you've personally done nothing wrong. You are just the messenger. And if I seem frustrated, it is not with you, it is with your company. However, I hope you understand how upset I am about this situation, so please help rectify this for your company."
The agent was dumbfounded. I kept reassuring him that I knew he was not at fault, but that he would also do the right thing. Within minutes I was booked on the next available flight out. During that same timeframe I witnessed the complete opposite approach at the next counter. Screeching, swearing, crying. It was sad, because they were headed to a wedding, but their approach didn't exactly motivate. As you might have suspected, they didn't make it to the wedding.
I thanked the customer service agent profusely for his efforts, and advised him that I would be writing a thank you letter to the company telling them how he had rectified the situation. The smile on his face was priceless.
As I stood in line to board the plane, I could see numerous fellow waitlisters sitting in agony hoping for their name to be called. If only they knew the formula--a "travel agent," a healthy dose of confidence, a positive attitude and a sympathetic understanding of a customer service rep's plight--they might be boarding the plane, too. And now you know, so that next time you meet the "friendly skies," you may do so with power and success.
Did you miss the previous chapters? Read them now. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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