By Steve Moran
My big travel indulgence is purchasing first class tickets, because, as a tall person, first class allows me to either rest or get work done — like writing this article — something I cannot do in coach.
I picked 2D, a window seat in the second row; got my boarding pass, which showed that seat; got on the plane; and took my seat, only to have a flight attendant come and tell me I was in the wrong seat, that I was supposed to be in A1, a bulkhead window seat, still first class but very limited legroom.
I complained, and his immediate response was that “it was not his problem” but that he would call a gate agent. He was clearly annoyed that I didn’t just go along with the program. He didn’t care about my needs, about what I had purchased. It was all about his job and his needs.
I was externally calm (I didn’t want to end up on some TikTok video and get thrown off the plane). I exited the seat while waiting for the gate agent, but I was still fuming inside (Karen style). The gate agent came and ultimately got it fixed so that I was back in my original seat; plus they gave me a $250 travel voucher, which was a nice but not spectacular service recovery act.
We Set the Stage
Lots of wrong behavior by front-line staff, but in a very real sense, senior leadership set the stage for this to happen. They have sent the message that the customer is mostly wrong and unreasonable. It is reinforced by “those videos” that we see on social media and the news of customers going nuts. But what gets missed is how the airline employees contribute to this problem.
I have had so many conversations with senior living leaders who tell me stories about unreasonable demands by family members and residents, and I am sure they are often right about the unreasonableness, but I am afraid that rarely do leaders ask themselves how often their policies and their attitude toward customers create friction that will ultimately lead to conflicts that create unhappiness for everyone. Conflicts that didn’t have to happen.
In the middle of writing this email, I got an email about a misunderstanding with one of our sponsors, and rather than sticking to the rules, I bent the rules big-time so that instead of them feeling frustrated with me and the team, they are delighted. It will cost us, but really not that much, and is 110% worth it.
Whether senior living provider or vendor, we should spend more time looking for ways to say “Yes,” ways to delight.