Recently when I was on a flight to New Zealand a passenger travelling economy asked a flight attendant if he could charge his laptop in the business class area of the plane, after noticing there were no charging ports in economy.
The flight attendant’s first response was; ‘’Oh I’m sorry sir the charging ports are only for business class passengers”
I watched the passenger walk away feeling a little defeated and disappointed because his problem wasn’t solved. Good on him for trying.
Several minutes later I observed that the flight attendant had found a workaround based on second thoughts.
His second response was: “Sir I’ve managed to find some business class passengers that have no problem at all letting you charge your laptop during the flight”
In service, to use good judgement in any situation that is critical to the customer requires us to pause and take a breath (approximately four seconds) before we open our mouths and respond.
The flight attendant after his first response paused and thought more about the actual request, he then checked with some business class passengers if they were not using their charger and would mind if another passenger used it. Great. Everyone is winning.
Specific to this scenario the flight attendant had the privilege of time, time to think about some options, knowing that the passenger was not going anywhere. We don’t always have the luxury of time, which is why our first responses are so vital in making a customer feel heard and important.
Whatever happened to the good old fashion; “Hmm sir let me see what I can do” at the beginning of each sentence. This sort of response will be met with satisfaction from a customer much more than an “I’m sorry we are unable to…”. Even if the outcome is still the same, the customer will feel important and cared for based on a good first response.
Our first response quite often is rules-based:

  • You can’t do this because….
  • Unfortunately, that is not possible….
  • We don’t allow this for this reason….

On second thoughts, after we have weighed up the need of the customer and maybe, just maybe, considered what it would be like to be in their shoes, our second response is values based:

  • I’ve had a chance to ask some questions and I am able to …
  • I thought about your situation, so I have managed to make an exception…
  • I have looked into this matter further and we can offer you…

In looking for good this week I share this story with you because it has a happy ending and the flight attendant did a great job by even considering a solution. It reminds me and all of us how critical our first response really is. Not all our customer’s are stuck on a plane giving you time to think through a better response. Encourage your service staff to take a breath.
Jaquie Scammell
‘Be in Service’