Customer Interaction: a rant and bit of introspection

It has been one of those days…and, as such, please consider this fair warning that this post is going to begin with a bit of a rant.

I fly…frequently*…and have tended to utilize a single carrier (as mentioned in the asterisked section in yesterday’s post). Because of schedule**, I flew a different carrier for this trip (Frontier Airlines). I’ve traveled enough to understand that delays happen. In many ways, at this time of year they should be expected as a result of the weather. Today was no exception.

The customer interaction exhibited by my carrier today was


Rather than regale you with the entirety of the debacle, I’m simply provide the highlights. The check-in agent was extraordinarily dismissive when I requested whether stand-by was an opportunity. I didn’t, at that point, realize that was a perk of attaining status in their programme…but my ignorance is no reason to be excessively rude. That and the utter shock the agent exhibited when I was only carrying a laptop bag indicated that Frontier may not, necessarily, be considered business traveler friendly.

At the time of our scheduled departure, there wasn’t a gate agent in sight, the website had no updated information regarding the flight, and the phone system seemed to alternate between an on-time departure and 45 minutes delayed. After an agent arrived (and keep in mind that the Atlanta didn’t have LCD screens), I asked if they had an estimate of when the plane would arrive. The answer deserves its own blockquote:

When it shows up…

Really? That is the best you can do? A shining example of quality customer interaction.

As is my want when frustrated, I began to get a bit introspective and consider my own customer/partner interactions. In particular, I began to ruminate on situations in the payments industry in which I’ve received or heard of similarly dismissive responses.

My thoughts led me to think of a few scenarios…and many of them were focused on the intricacies of securing payment software and meeting compliance standards. What it is about PCI and PA-DSS that seems to engender such a vitriolic response? What do a business traveler searching for information on a delayed flight and a Software Company navigating the intricacies of compliance have in common?

The answer, depending on your perspective***, is either ignorance or a need for education.

When faced with a challenging customer interaction, particularly regarding something uniquely odd and niggly like compliance, I entreat those of us “in the know” to temper our initial response of frustration and focus instead on the opportunity to educate. Education is, in fact, the rising tide that floats all boats.

Once interest has been established (and it has if they are asking)…education can commence…which yields understanding…and if they are truly motivated will result in depth of knowledge that is beneficial to all in the ecosystem.

What’s your perspective? Agree? Disagree? Anything to add? Critiques? The comment form is below…

* although not nearly as much this year (to date) as in the past
** and, quite frankly, price
*** and attitude

Written in seat 16A – DEN to ATL

June 12, 2009

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