After teaching World Class Customer Service In Rochester, NY, a flight to Philadelphia on USAir gave a number of examples of how to create the customer service experience and how not! A Customer experience differs from customer service in that the customer walks away with a memorable experience. They feel cared for and important and the organization providing the service goes out of their way to make it happen.

The flight from Rochester started out with a delay in boarding. Not significant – about 10 minutes, but at a gate across from the one advertised on the overhead boards. Upon boarding, the flight attendant was not very engaging. A woman boarding the plane saw that the overhead bins were all full in coach class and started to put her bag in the overhead bin in First Class. The flight attendant in first class said, “No, these are for First Class.”

I would agree except first class was already full and there were spaces for about four bags in the overhead. She worked her way toward the back of the plane and as suspected there were no more overhead bin spaces available. She was told to take her bag back to the front of the plane ‘to be checked through to the destination at no charge!”

This now meant she would have to go to baggage claim when she arrived. In addition, the flight attendant in coach was chomping on gum and her appearance was less than stellar. I perceived the flight attendant in First Class as disinterested until she overheard me tell another passenger that I teach Customer Service.

That should not be an issue and every flight should be made as memorable as possible, whether or not a person teaches customer service. There was also no beverage service offered. The attitude of the flight attendants gave off an energy of discontent in my perception.

The next leg of my journey had a very different experience. Many flights in and out of Newport News, VA are on small planes and today was no different. Although the plane was not as new, the flight attendant made all the difference in the world.

This segment of my flight on USAir was on Piedmont airlines and upon boarding was greeted by an illuminating smile of Heather our flight attendant. Throughout the flight her tone of voice was engaging. As she conducted the beverage service, she smiled and chatted with passengers. When she finished the service she offered me the rest of the juice in the can instead of discarding it. During the flight she kept us abreast of the flight status as did our pilot. People make all the difference in creating a customer experience.

So, what are the elements that make the customer service experience?

  • Attitude: A cheerful greeting, with a smile goes a long way toward making a person feel exceptional.
  • Appearance: Every aspect of appearance goes into the customer service experience. From the appearance of the personnel to the look of the surroundings including written material.
  • Communication: Both verbal and nonverbal communication goes into creating the experience for the customer. At tone someone determines whether they are for or against them.

As stated, it is the people who make a difference in creating a customer service experience. Ironically about 90% of people who have a poor customer experience, never complain, they just no longer do business with an organization. In most instances it is the behavior of one employee who turns someone off and they generalize it to the entire organization. With a little additional effort, employees can not only support their organization, but secure their futures.