How Many Employees Does It Take To Hurt a Brand? One.

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Short story time:

A guy walks into Charlotte International Airport on a flight to LaGuardia. He’s flying USAirways, because out of Charlotte, one doesn’t have any other choice that costs less than a mortgage. As he checks in, he asks the ticketing agent if because he’s “Star Gold,” he can change his seat to one of the ones in the front and have the $39 “for seats that suck a bit less than the ones in the back” fee waived.

“Everybody gots to pay,” is the response. That’s it. Nothing else. The response, uttered by “Missy M,” was said with a dismissive wave, and without any eye contact whatsoever.

The guy answers with “I was just curious, because another airline I normally fly allows those seats to be reserved for free if you have status.”

“We ain’t [that other airline,] they down there. I don’t care what they do down there. This is USAirways, and all those seats costs money.” (Her words, word for word.)

“OK,” the guy replies. “Thank you for your kind response.”

“Pssh. Whatevah,” came the reply.

Here’s the problem – that 15 second interaction set the tone for the entire trip, and made everything else that happened to the guy That… Much… Worse…

Two hour ground hold, stuck on the tarmac? That… Much… Worse…

Two crying, hyperactive kids in the seats next to him? (Which wouldn’t even be a problem, because traveling guy has one now, and he gets it?) That… Much… Worse…

Circling around LaGuardia, as we’re doing now, waiting to land? That… Much… Worse…

Even this couldn’t make up for “Missy M.”

You know this guy. He’s incredibly easy-going. But thank you, Missy, for destroying any positive feelings he might have had for USAirways. See, he was having a relatively good day in the morning. He gave a great keynote, then drove back to the airport. Lots of traffic, so by the time he got there, he was slightly frazzled Had Missy taken a second, read his body language, and noticed this, she might have replied in a better way, and put him at ease. Instead, she escalated the situation. By the time traveling guy got to the gate, USAirways wasn’t on his favorites list in the slightest. Then add to this, the list above, and forget it, traveling guy would rather stab himself in the eye with a spork then fly them again. The worst part? Only ONE OF THESE THINGS WERE THE FAULT OF USAIRWAYS, BUT IT NO LONGER MATTERS.

See, it doesn’t matter what USAirways did after traveling guy’s encounter with Missy, because Missy set USAirways up for failure today.

That’s the point of this post: All it takes is one – One bad experience in a chain of otherwise good to sour the whole process. If you manage a business, or even more importantly, manage customer service, you should know that ONE bad apple can DEFINITELY spoil the bunch.

Quick analysis as to what Missy M did:

She blew multiple future sales from our traveling guy.

She blew any good word of mouth traveling guy might have had.

She made sure that traveling guy would go out of his way to avoid USAirways.

All it takes is one bad experience. Your job is to make sure that employees understand that, and more importantly, understand that good customer service actually guarantees them job security! It’s not an easy job – but until we start realizing that customer service employees are the true front-line employees, it doesn’t matter how many free Jack Daniels the flight attendant gives traveling guy. (And by the way, the mother of the screaming kids picked up the tab for traveling guy’s Jack Daniels. Nice woman, she was.)

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