What is your customer service domino effect?

imagesDominoes.  Remember the childhood game designed to gain points by placing matching tiles end on end?  Or perhaps instead you spent hours creating the perfect sequence only to tap the end tile and see each domino topple one after another in perfect precision. The latter is today’s focus.  And a recent business trip inspired our story.

If you tried to travel west on April 14th you likely encountered flight delays.  It was one of those terrible storm days and in the airline business that means a series of issues can easily unfold.  I was trying to get to South Dakota from Tennessee by way of the DFW airport.  As luck would have it, weather delayed all flights out of Nashville.  After three attempts to the runway, our flight finally took off 3 1/2 hours late.  Of the 160 passengers on the plane, 124 of us had connections.  And the dominoes begin.

You guessed it.  Even with delays of all flights in and out of DFW, I missed my connection.  The rebooking process began and that my friends, is where the descent of my negative customer experience began.  The majority of passengers on this day had flight delays.  While the gate agents didn’t create the weather and subsequent delays, those very frustrations are sometimes part of the job.  The key is how you respond. The majority of agents encountered in our terminal were equally frustrated by the delays.  How do I know?  They told me!  And unfortunately, it wasn’t in a good way.  Rolled eyes, sighs and rarely a comment to acknowledge my failed travel plans.  Employee after employee had the opportunity to acknowledge the irritations of delays, lines and rebooking.  Sadly, most did not.  Dominoes…but not the fun kind.

THEN….the dominoes changed…for the better.

After a travel day that began at 6:00am, I realized at 800pm getting my destination was not a reality, at least on this day.  So I booked a room at the Holiday Inn Express in Grapevine for the night. And that’s where the domino effect improved.

FullSizeRenderThe young lady who picked me up with the hotel shuttle was nothing but delightful.  After a very long day of missed flights and waiting in line, Maria turned my day around. How? She immediately acknowledged my tired face.  She wanted to know my story – Where was I from?  Where was I trying to go?  And how was I feeling?  And throughout that conversation she assured me I was going to be pampered and take cared of. “After all,” she said, “ you deserve some rest, please and quiet after the day you have had.”

It’s simple but absolutely beautiful.  On a day filled with frustration, the attention and time she took to interact with me made my day (and trip for that matter).

So, what is the takeaway from these two service experiences?  For both the good (Maria and the team at Holiday Inn) and not so good (the airline agents at the airport), the following four truths, aka Domino Details apply:

  1. Every employee impacts the customer experience.  In fact your interactions with a customer “prepare” them either positively or negatively for the next employee they may encounter.
  2. We must have agreed-upon standards of service among our team.  These “rules” ensure everyone on the team is on the same page to offer a certain level of service by everyone..no matter what.  That consistency is a positive step that better builds positive experiences – even in those frustrating circumstances.

  3. We must have accountability among the team to our success.  Real success occurs only when anyone on the team can speak up when a peer is drifting from the standard.  AND..peers respond to that feedback positively versus a defensiveness.

  4. We must think like a team, act like a team and celebrate like a team.  This truth echoes the first point.  When every single member of the team recognizes the impact of we versus me, good things begin to happen with customers and the team too.

So my airline trip was a bust.  But thanks to my experience at the hotel the day didn’t have to end that way.  The domino effect service that began my day was intersected by a positive experience.  In your world, what and who are your dominoes?  Here’s hoping they are positive.  After all, your customers deserve it!

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