I don’t care about $2

NOTE: This is Part 1 of a series of posts inspired by 40 very active hours of travel on  March 13-14, 2015.  There will be at least 3 more entries in this series.

I don’t care about $2.  I do care about employees who don’t feel like they are being listened to.

On a recent trip to the airport, I stopped at the curbside check-in to drop off my bag.  I was met by Erin, who asked for a drivers license and credit card.  The following conversation ensued.

Me – (confused about why she needed a credit card) “I actually paid for my bag online.”

Erin – (sounding exasperated) “I know, but there is a $2 fee for checking in out here.”

Me – (trying to be funny/sympathetic) “Well that stinks.”

Erin – “Yeah, it’s supposed to be a convenience fee for not going inside.  We’ve complained about it, but no one listens.”

Me – “I hate to hear that.”

Erin – “Yeah, they don’t listen to the people actually doing the work.  They sit in their ivory tower and make decisions that we have to deal with.  That’s corporate America, nothing we can do about it.”

You could hear the resignation in her tone.  Here is an employee with a voice, with something to say, and no one is listening.  Or at least that is her perception.

And of course, that perception is Erin’s reality.

Erin dutifully printed my boarding passes and my receipt for the $2.  As she handed the documents to me, she said with a wily smirk and a chuckle, “and here is your receipt for the $2.”  Then she very pleasantly wished me a safe flight and a nice day.

How hard is it to listen to someone?  How tough is it to spend the time to pay attention to what the front line employees are saying?  It’s not hard and it’s not tough.  But it does take time and an open mind – two things that seem to be in short supply these days.

As a leader, we have choices about where we focus our time, our energy and attention.  If you think that listening to your employees is not worth your time, think about this.

Dr. Rick Bommelje, one of the foremost authorities on listening and leadership, has studied the emotional impact of being listened to for years. He has found that the feelings of being listened to are so close to that of being loved that most people can’t tell the difference.


So when you listen to your employees, or even if they PERCEIVE that you are listening, they will get the feeling that you care, and won’t feel like my friend Erin. Defeated and unengaged.

Even if that $2 is the difference between financial success and failure, Erin doesn’t know it.  Because she doesn’t know it, she doesn’t care.  That impacts how she explained the fee to me, and how this blog post got written.

Had she said, “I understand, and am sorry you didn’t know about the fee.  It’s for the convenience of avoiding the long lines inside.  We can get you through much quicker.”

That would be worth $2, right?  But I am NOT calling for the retraining of Erin.  I am calling for Erin’s leaders (and everyone like them) to listen to your employees.  Again, even if you keep the fee, let her know WHY you have the fee, why it’s important and why it is beneficial to the guests.

As a leader, you want that $2, right?  You’ve got to earn it… not just by tacking on an extra fee, but by listening and communicating with your employees.  That’s the REAL focus of your job.

Thanks for reading… now go listen!





About the author: Matt has written about broken policies with the airlines before.  As it so happens, the airline in this situation is one of the guilty parties.  Maybe the execs aren’t listening to their employees about that fiasco either.



Some policies are bad for customer service

I recently had the opportunity to fly an airline that charges baggage fees (I try to avoid this by flying Southwest whenever possible). I understand that it is difficult for a for-profit company to turn its back on potential revenue, but charging for bags is a practice that is at best, broken.

Here’s why:

When people don’t want to do something, they often find a way around it or avoid it altogether (by flying another airline, for example!). When people don’t want to pay for their bags, they try to carry-on as much as possible. This leads to overstuffed overhead compartments, which leads to a slower boarding process and cranky travelers.

The airlines know this, so their solution to speed up boarding and save overhead space is to check your carry-on bags at the gate – for free. Savvy travelers have figured this out, so they just bring their luggage to the gate to check it for free.

If this wasn’t enough to want to fix the problem, you now have the rule-abiding flyers who dutifully paid for their bags at the ticket counter or online, seeing other travelers getting to check their bags for free. Why the inconsistency?? Maybe next time they’ll bring their bags through security, too!

This has an impact on the airline employees, too, because now they have to explain why some people have to pay and others don’t. That takes time and causes frustration. Not the best idea for building a customer service culture. I asked a ticket agent about this on my return flight, and he just blankly stared at me and said, “luckily I don’t work the gate very often, so I don’t have to deal with it.” That’s nice.

So why do airlines still charge for bags considering all these negative outcomes? I’ll let you come to your own conclusion, but the bigger question to ask yourself is this:

Does my company have any policies or practices that create such inconsistent service and frustrating situations for my guests and employees?

If you are not sure, just ask your guests and employees.  They’ll know.

Thanks for reading!


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