Rolling through the Highs and Lows | Where will your Customers Land?

I am always on the lookout for extraordinary customer experiences and sadly they are proportionally akin to the story of the princess and the frog – there are few princes and a lot of frogs. The other day, I encountered, count them, not one but two extraordinary customer experiences both lastingly memorable. The first brings a smile upon recollection, the other not so much!

At an Airport – No Less

Imagine tagging along as I travel from the rental car counter to my gate at Chicago’s Midway Airport.

As I climb on board the rental car shuttle, it’s obvious that the driver enjoys her job. She is smiling and greeting passengers. It’s hard to imagine how many customers she greets each day, but her welcome feels like I am her only one. Shortly, after the bus leaves the curb, the driver sets the tone for our 7-minute adventure by asking if she has permission to sing a song that she has written. After resounding assent, she goes on to mention that she put her words to a familiar melody and that she would like passengers to sing along (if we are moved to do so). She assured us we would know what and when to sing.

The driver then began singing her version of “Proud Mary” popularized by Tina Turner. The driver’s words reflected on how she had previously navigated a school bus in Chicago and that she had “never missed a minute of sleep worrying about the new job ahead…because Big Wheels Keep on Turning, Rentals Keep Returning (of course that is where my fellow passengers and I began echoing words like Rollin and Rolling at Midway). Lest you judge, this encounter as silly, I will simply say you had to have been there to fully appreciate how masterfully the driver engaged and transfixed her audience.

For the first time in my life, I was having a memorable experience superimposed on what ordinarily is a necessary but not particularly positive transaction. At the end of the ride, I asked the driver for both her name and for a comment card. I sent in my praise and couldn’t wait to write this blog in the hope you meet Bettye or someone like her in the near future. If I was based in Chicago, I would have tried to hire her.

Rolling Downward

Now fast forward 10 minutes, I am past security and looking for a place to eat in the crowded airport food court. I find a spot at the bar in a sit-down restaurant. There was no one there to greet or seat me. That was okay.

When the bartender approached, she turned away and started yelling at her manager. I looked around the bar and unlike the passengers on Bettye’s bus, no one was smiling. In fact, customers were obviously frustrated by what I came to learn was the ongoing saga of customer neglect and this server’s tirade.

Apparently, technology glitches had frustrated the server (I will use the term server to distinguish her from a service professional). Her problems with processing credit cards had become amplified such that everyone at the bar was not only inconvenienced but also privy to a horror show. I waited to be served for 25 minutes, absorbed in the customer experience train wreck.

In that time, as much as I tried to get myself to break away, I was enveloped by her antics (which included her walking off her shift, leaving her colleagues frustrated and overwhelmed). Alas, when she returned, her manager did not offer feedback, coaching or sit her down for a crucial conversation. As such, I imagine the culture of poor customer experiences will be maintained at that restaurant.

Lessons Learned

I couldn’t have scripted a starker contrast. On the one hand, we have “Bettye the Experience Magician” and on the other, we have the “Self-absorbed Raging Restaurant Staff Member.” So, what can we learn from this microcosm of service moments? Here are a few of my takeaways:

  • Each of us has a choice to create transactions or experiences
  • Every service professional has the power to “keep rolling” customer experiences up or down
  • Since most service is team-based, the actions of one can affect the experiences of many
  • The feedback of customers and leaders is essential to shape customer experience behavior

I wish Bettye could have followed me into that restaurant. I would have loved to have gotten her input on what she thought of the experience being created in there. I sense she might have broken into song observing, “I watched a lot of pain in the diner…as the server chose to act that way…and only wish she would have remembered, it’s a privilege to be serving and creating a positive memory today…Rolling…Rolling at Midway.”

If you would like to talk about your efforts to assure great customer experiences to keep rolling at your business, I am here to listen and explore opportunities. Contact me here.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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