Empower your people

Just flew back from the west coast visiting a client. A great lesson in how not to handle a customer problem unfolded in front of me. This story has appeared in the news a number of times recently which makes it even more surprising that they weren’t prepared to handle it. I was a t the airport at my gate when I observed a soldier approach the adjacent gate about 75 feet away. He was carrying two back packs. Since I 75 feet from the  gate my observations were based on gestures and body language. When I made a decision to write about I did approach a couple who were at the gate to get some additional information.

 The soldier was told that he was only allowed one carry and there would be $75 charge to check the second back pack. My observation was that this was a problem for him. The clerk at the podium called a supervisor to come over and assist and she confirmed the $75 fee. I could see a number of other passengers a the gate interceding on the soldiers behalf but to no avail. The couple I eventually approached to get some of the details paid the fee.

Once the fee was taken care of and everything calmed down I saw the super visitor patting the gate clerk on the back in a reassuring way and I assumed telling her that was the policy and couldn’t do anything about it (later confirmed)

So what are my takeaways: My first observation was why hadn’t the airline amended their policy to avoid the problem especially since the issue of soldiers and baggage fees has been all over the news and internet. And secondly why hadn’T the airline empowered their employees to use common sense and resolve the problem immediately avoiding a bad public relations situation. Empower your clerks to resolve customer problems immediately. Assign levels of authority based on their experience. Have them review the problem and how they resolved with you giving you the opportunity to offer constructive criticism. I’m going to follow-up with some very specific information on the value of loyal customers and the lifetime value of a customer. My retailers still treat customer loyalty as a necessary evil rather than a prime driver of profitably.