Flight attendants: Lost The Fire For Customer Service Excellence? Time To Retire!
Last week, I spent over 18hrs flying from Vancouver to Miami, and back – across three airlines. While one was good and one ordinary, the flight attendants in one were seemed bored of their jobs and didn’t quite care much about giving a superior service to passengers.
Firstly, the two serving me were both at least fifty and looked visibly tired since it was the last flight of the day. And those of us sitting in the Emergency exit row were almost barked upon, “Are you qualified to be sitting in this row?” – should I have produced my college degree or something? I know they just want us to say “yes”, but the same idea could have been communicated in a much nicer manner!
While I didn’t have the energy to share some good customer service advise with them, Ron Kaufman did, on another flight. As some of you might recall, I’ve attended his workshop in Singapore and previously written an article on his teaching as well.
This is a guest article by Ron Kaufman. Ron is the world’s leading educator and motivator for upgrading customer service and uplifting service culture. He is author of the bestselling “UP Your Service!” books and founder of UP Your Service! College. To enjoy more customer service training and service culture articles, visit UpYourService.com.
I was flying to the United States when an In-Flight Supervisor recognized me and came over to chat. We spoke about current challenges and how quickly the airline was growing.
She lamented that some older crew felt jaded and uninspired to deliver customer service excellence. They tend to do the minimum of work in flight, she said, shifting the burden to younger crew members. This behavior was setting a poor example and had a negative impact on the morale of new hires, damaging their drive to deliver customer service excellence.
She asked me, “What do you think we should do about them?”
Immediately I replied, “Tell them it’s time to quit. And if they don’t leave or shape up, fire them.”
She was shocked by my response. “But they have a very strong union,” she said. “And they have served so many years. Doesn’t the airline owe them something for that?”
Again I shared my strong views about customer service excellence:
“Find them a meaningful role on the ground that harnesses their skills and experience to real advantage. If that doesn’t work, or they won’t do the work required, then fire them.
“And if you can’t fire them because of union, then create a ‘Department of Dead Wood’ and park them inside until they retire. They’ll still cost the airline in payroll accounts, but at least they won’t cause so much damage.
“As for the airline ‘owing them something,’ hasn’t the airline been paying the crew, training and rewarding them all these years? Haven’t the airline and crew members grown up together?
“Everyone shares good feelings for achievements and successes in the past. But shouldn’t we share responsibility, too, for building a strong and successful future?”
The supervisor was not comfortable with my answer, I could tell, but it certainly got her thinking. What about you?
Key Learning Point To Customer Service Excellence
When someone on your team loses his or her enthusiasm or commitment to deliver customer service excellence, it’s time for them to either change or go. This is especially true when that person is very senior and is looked up to as a role model by newcomers to the organization.
When you’ve lost the fire to deliver customer service excellence, it’s time to retire.
Action Steps To Customer Service Excellence
Share this insight about customer service excellence with everyone on your service team. Make it part of your staff orientation program so that new team members know what to expect of the elders.
Share this with your senior staff, as well. They must understand what it takes today to keep an organization going – and growing.