Handling customer’s special requests is often a challenge because you can’t always see the root cause behind that request and how it aligns with your standard operating procedures.
As I waited for a recent flight, I observed an interesting exchange between an airline gate agent and a customer.
A couple approached the counter and the man asked for a pass to allow them to do pre-boarding. The gate agent asked him two questions. He answered no to both. The agent said she was sorry but she couldn’t give him priority boarding.
The man immediately said, “Let me speak to your supervisor!”
While waiting for supervisor to arrive, the man made some other comments that allowed the agent to uncover the reasons why the man wanted pre-boarding. With these new details, the picture was clearer and the agent was able to see that pre-boarding was actually allowed in this case.
The gate agent told the man that she was “required to ask those two questions to allow pre-boarding. If you say no, then I can’t let you pre-board.” She followed it up with a “Please don’t get mad at me for doing my job.”
The customer, who never appeared to be in a good mood to begin with, snapped back, “I don’t need your attitude.”
To the agent’s credit, she never lost her temper or raised her voice. However, the entire exchange could have gone smoother if she had better understood the customer’s needs from the beginning.
Ask the customer why they need something and they’ll likely give you the information you need to make a more informed decision and give viable alternatives.
Get to the root cause of an issue and you can see if it really does meet your rules, regulations, or procedures. This will eliminate a lot of customer angst and will help diffuse tense situations.