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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Service Rant: How are you doing today?

I was boarding an American Airlines plane yesterday, and as I passed the flight attendant, I offered a hello and asked how she was doing – something I do in every service encounter, and likely a hundred times a day with great friends and complete strangers.

Her response, unfortunately, was not atypical: “I’m at work, so what does that tell you?”

What does that tell me?

Actually, a lot. For starters, that you don’t like your job, and that I’m probably not going to enjoy this experience. (I didn’t.) That your leadership is doing some fundamental things wrong that, while not your fault, present themselves in the way you serve customers. That, on aggregate, your company’s experience is likely inferior to someone else’s. Maybe many “someones”.

The truth is, for front line employees performing a service experience, there is really only one response to the question, consisting of some form of, “I’m doing great, and I’m ready to perform for you.”

And because staffers’ sole purpose is to support (i.e./ serve) the line organization, it should also be the answer for anyone not in a front line service role.

Is it okay to have an off day?

Of course it is – we all do.

But who wants to hear it? Not your customers. Not the front line employee facing more customers than she can handle. Not your reports. Not the project team you lead. To ALL of these people, the answer includes “I’m ready to perform. To get this thing (whatever it is) going, to not waste everyone’s time and create an outcome we can all be proud of.”

Not convinced?

Imagine you’ve shelled out a hundred bucks or so for tickets to a Broadway show this holiday season. At the intermission of a poor performance, you make a wrong turn while looking for the restroom and end up running into the lead actor doubled over a garbage can, who, recognizing you as a patron, says, “Hey, sorry the show isn’t going so well today. I caught a bug a few days ago and I’m just not my regular self.”

Would you be disappointed? Pissed off?

Don’t think the analogy applies?

You’re probably right. The plane ticket cost more than the Broadway show, the front line service performers had a smaller audience to attend to, and a greater ability to connect directly and more tools to do so.

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