Leadership+Resilience

Insights

Serving the customer

I once heard an airport professional say that his job was to “get people to stop talking to him” (paraphrase). The idea being that if someone is talking to him, then there is something wrong at his airport. If nobody was talking to him, then there was nothing wrong. Now, I choose to assume that he was was exaggerating for the sake of making a joke–that he didn’t actually believe the core of the statement–but it did get me thinking. Specifically, about how we go about customer service.

I think this sentiment reflects the way a number of us hold the notion of customer service. Mainly, that it is something we do from a place of reaction. That it is something that catches us on our heels. The customer needs something, let’s us know in some way, and then we react to fulfill that request. But this notion of customer service is incomplete. You can’t get people to “stop talking to you” if everyone is just reacting. It won’t work.

Customer service is about reacting and fixing problems on behalf of the customer, yes, but if we flip the phrase we can more easily see its proactive component. Customer service is about serving the customer. Serving somebody happens when the customer shows up and sees that the airport landscaping is in order at the front entrance. Serving somebody happens when we invest in our security system such that our customers’ access credentials work every single time. Serving somebody happens when we do everything possible to keep the runways and taxiways open and safe to prevent delays. Serving somebody happens when we invest in our signage systems so that navigating our airports gets easier. Serving somebody happens, like for me in O’hare, when there is an information person standing in the middle of the terminal, not behind a desk, for me to ask questions of.

The best way to get better at customer service is to invest more time being proactive. Anybody can react to a request, but the leaders who have it dialed in will always focus more on being proactive.

by Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan is the Head Coach at Sandcastle Company, a Seattle-based leadership training organization. His first book, Future Leader: Rebooting Leadership to Win the Millennial and Tech Future [link], is now available. Jonathan regularly writes and speaks about The New Leader Way, leadership resilience, and the future of work. He has years of leadership experience in both the public and private sectors, a master's degree from Seattle University, and professional coach training from the University of Miami.

Filed under: Airports | Leadership

Published on October 9, 2018

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