In addition to Ashely’s comment about our service challenge, I got a number of phone calls and emails with roughly the same sentiment. Give the couple some money and deal with the restaurant later. One person said to give them all $4 back for their inconvenience. I like that.
Well, if you are curious about what really happened – here it is. Be ready to be underwhelmed.
It may not have been clear, but the couple with the undrinkable coffee was Linda and I. We were on our way home from Michigan, and we were in the South Bend, IN Regional Airport. It’s a relatively small operation (nothing wrong with that) where you have one big common area that serves multiple gates. When we approached the gate agent with our 4 cups of coffee, this is what happened:
Us: Hi, we just purchased these 4 cups of coffee out of the vending machine, and three are undrinkable. Two are actually only water.
Gate agent: The restaurant takes care of those, we have nothing to do with them.
Us: What are we supposed to do?
Gate agent: I guess you could go over to the restaurant and see what they say.
Us: Doesn’t that mean we have to go back through Security.
Gate agent: Yeah, but you’ve got a while ’till we board.
Us: What are the people at the restaurant going to do?
Gate Agent: I don’t know. Like I said we don’t do anything with those.
Us: Is there anyway to call them over here?
Gate Agent: No.
Us: Don’t you have a phone?
Gate Agent: Yeah, but we don’t have their number.
Us: What would you do in an emergency?
Gate agent: I guess we could page them.
Us: Okay, let’s try that.
Gate agent (over intercom): Restaurant manager needed in the terminal. Restaurant Manager needed in the terminal. Then he turned back to us: I paged them, I guess we’ll see if they come.
Linda and I then walked away from the gate, more than a little frustrated with the lack of assistance. Of course I had to think about what caused this situation to take place. Lazy employee? Bad management? Broken processes?
That last one is interesting… the one thing that could have been this guy’s saving grace was being able to actually contact the restaurant directly. Is this broken process his fault? Probably not, but I am sure it’s something that frustrates him every time it happens. In fact, he may have even told someone about it, but nothing was done.
So what’s his perception now? People complain and I tell my boss about it. Nothing happens to fix it, so I keep getting stuck in the same situation. Apparently either they don’t listen to me or they don’t care about me or the customer. I guess customer service isn’t as important as they say it is.
Do you think that’s a stretch? I don’t, because unfortunately, I’ve seen it happen way too many times. Of course I am speculating in this case, but it wouldn’t surprise me if SOMETHING like that was going on.
So taking this one step further… if management doesn’t listen to me, why should I listen to the customers? The way you treat your team is the way your team will treat your guests.
I think both parties wanted and needed to be listened to. I may have referenced this before, but it’s worth repeating. Dr. Rick Bommelje says that being listened to invokes feelings so close to being loved, that most people can’t tell the difference.
If you feel that your team members and guests deserve a little love, listen to them. (And, don’t make them pay for a broken process!)
Thanks for reading!