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On a recent trip to Atlanta, I experienced varying degrees of customer service displayed by the staff at Frontier Airlines. I know that I am not alone in this, as recently, the airline industry has been in the forefront of the news in regards to the good, the bad and the ugly way passengers are treated. Almost all the major airlines-United, South West, Jet Blue, Delta, and more, have been in the news for poor performance when dealing with the flying public. My experience actually took place before I even got on the plane. In fact, due to the events that unfolded, I almost didn’t make it onto the plane.
Before I share my story, let me say, No, I was not dragged off the plane by rude flight attendants or over zealous security officers No, my multi-thousand dollars guitars were not destroyed by staff. No, I was not berated or called some racist or insulting degrading name. Nor was I forced to remain in my seat and urinate into a cup with the Flight crew watching. Mine is just a story that tells of my experience of examples of both mediocre service and Excellent Customer service provided to me by different members of the same staff.
How Do You Feel When You Travel?
These days, there is a myriad of emotions that the flying public feel when they travel by air. It is different for each one of us and many of us find ourselves on an “emotional roller coaster”. You know what I’m talking about. What starts out as excitement for your trip often quickly turns into apprehension, nervousness, anxiety, frustration, impatience or any number of other not so-pleasant-emotions. We all have been there.
There are many points along one’s journey-called Touch Points where there is an opportunity for a service professional to interact with and effect (either positively or negatively) the customer’s overall experience. When I shared this story at the NCSA Conference- I began by asking the audience, “How do you feel when you fly?” They named all the emotions listed above and more. Interestingly, not a single one of them said, “I feel calm. I feel relaxed. I feel peaceful, or overjoyed.”
The reality is that there are thousands of flights traveling across the United States every single day, carrying hundreds of thousands of passengers, many whom are anxious, nervous, irritated and frustrated.
Airline staff are Service Professionals. Their primary duty should be, regardless of their position or job title, to provide great customer service to their passengers as they ensure their safe journey to their destination. However this does not always seem to be their primary concern.
I was booked on a Frontier Airlines flight departing at 12:40 am, from Las Vegas to Atlanta last April. I was super excited as I was scheduled to speak at the National Customer Service Association, (NCSA) Conference. This was my second year to be at this prestigious event as a speaker. And I was scheduled to speak not once, not twice, but a total of three times! Including closing the awards banquet! I was stoked! I had been looking forward to this for months!
When I travel, I tend to pack more than I end up using. More clothes, more shoes, more hats, more books. More everything. This is why road trips often work better for me, as there is no limit-or relatively no limit to what I can bring/pack, as long as I can fit it in the car. Also, it always takes me way too long to get all my stuff together, especially if I’m traveling alone and my wife is working. On this particular day, my wife was working. As she was leaving to work at 5:45 am, she admonished me to make sure I do nothing else this morning until I get all packed. I agreed and kissed her good bye.
I don’t know what happened but the hours quickly flew by. My suitcases and garment bag were lying on the bed half-packed. I just stood there staring at them. I’ve got to finish, I told myself. Bottom line- I was rushed. I did not leave myself ample time to get to the airport and through security. I take full responsibility for this.
At the Airport
I order my Lyft and wait. I get in with my 4 bags; suitcase, matching carry-on, garment bag and satchel, and take the 20 minute ride to McCarran International airport. I text my wife. She mentions that I was leaving a bit late. I text her ‘It’s fine’.
Arriving at the airport, I was expecting curbside check-in at Frontier Airlines. Nope. There was none. I also had not yet printed out my boarding pass. I go to the kiosk but can’t figure out how to print the boarding pass. I ask a staff member and they graciously assist me. That was nice. Thanks. I’m still a little irritated about the lack of curb side check in. It’s how I always travel. It’s easy, convenient and I don’t have to lug all my bags up to the check in counter.
I walk up to the counter, place my suitcase and carry-on on the weigh scale. I put my garment bag and shoulder bag on the ground. There are at least 4, maybe 5, counter attendants, unoccupied, talking among themselves. I mention to them that I was hoping for curbside check-in. One young man replies, laughing, “Well sometimes we have it and sometimes we don’t. It just depends what we feel like. Ha ha.” I quietly say, “I’m not joking.”
The girl who checked me in did not ask me any questions about the luggage I was checking. As I was looking for luggage tags to fill out, before I knew it, she hands me my boarding pass with the baggage claim stubs attached. I look behind her and I see my suitcase AND my carry-on disappearing on the belt.
“NO-O-O-O!” I exclaimed. ‘That’s the wrong bag!’ When I walked up to the counter, I just unloaded my luggage, placing the suitcase and matching carry-on on the weigh scale. I meant to place my garment bag as my second piece of checked luggage, not my carry-on. My carry-on had my $900. laptop in the front pocket. Unpadded, unprotected and uninsured. Oh, NO! We have to get that back. I am already rushed because I did not leave for the airport in time. Yes, my fault. I ask the Frontier staff at the counter how do we get my bag back? They kind of all say in unison some form of “No there’s nothing that can be done.” I think, that can’t be possible. I’m certainly not the only person ever who mistakenly checked the wrong bag. There’ got to be a way.
Where there’s a Lead, there’s No Way
I am a believer that there’s always a way. Someone has the authority, the know-how, the whatever it takes to fix a given problem. But my request was met with an attitude of ambivalence and lack of care. I say, “How do we get my bag back? My laptop is in there. It will be destroyed.” A female Frontier staff member says, “You can’t get it back. No one can. And yes it may likely be destroyed. There’s nothing that can be done.” My heart sinks. I have visions of retrieving my crushed, completely destroyed laptop upon arrival in Atlanta. I blurt out, “There must be something that can be done. Who’s in charge?”
That same woman who was speaking hopelessness to me a moment ago, walks away from me, while emphatically stating, “I AM. I’m the Lead!”
Wow. She’s the Lead?! The Lead of what? I felt no empathy whatsoever from this person who claimed to be in charge. What kind of customer service is that? Yes, again, I admit, I am the one who placed the wrong bag on the check-in scale. However, never once did the counter staff confirm with me that these are the bags I was checking. And regardless, if the customer makes a mistake, shouldn’t the service professional do or at least attempt to do something to fix the problem?
As I stand there, frustrated and bewildered, I wonder what am I going to do? The clock is ticking. I need to retrieve that bag. My flight is scheduled to leave in about 40 minutes. I ask one of the other staff members if there is a supervisor or manager that we can contact.
This young woman replies”Yes, she went to get the manager.” What? The person who is the Lead, who gave me no hope or assurance walks away to go get the manager? How bizarre. She did not make any attempt to reassure me or that she would attempt to find a resolution. Rather, all she did was emphatically state, “Nothing can be done and NO One can get that bag back!” She didn’t say, “Just wait right here Mr. Weihman, I’ll be right back.” But now I’m told she went to go get the manager. So, maybe something can be done after all!
Thank you for reading. I appreciate all my Soupfly Readers from all around the world.
Part 2 will be released in a couple days.
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Cheers and God bless you all! I pray that you have positive customer experiences in your daily interactions.
Christoff J. Weihman