Customer Experience: Airlines

Customer Experience: Airlines

A couple arrived at the airport for their flight, and the monitor indicated that their plane was on time. However, when the couple arrived at the gate, they could see that their flight was delayed. No one could tell them how long the delay would be, and the gate personnel suggested calling the airline’s customer service department. The husband called and the customer service representative told him the flight was on time. He pointed out that the flight couldn’t be on time because it had been scheduled to leave two hours ago. The representative then confirmed that the flight was delayed but could provide no other information. The couple waited four hours for their flight. After arriving home, the husband visited the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) website and complained about the lack of communication. The airline then reached out to the husband and offered him a $100 voucher to be used within six weeks.


  • The couple was much more upset over the lack of communication than they were by the actual delay. Also, since none of the employees had information, the couple felt the company was incompetent.
  • The financial incentive to use the airline again was underwhelming. Plus, the six-week time frame made the flight voucher impossible for them to use, only adding to their dissatisfaction.
  • There are many airline choices, and although customers might select a flight based on the best price, if the service is horrible, customers will not choose that airline in the future—even if the price is cheap. Bad service never earns customer loyalty.

Greeting Customers

The Ritz-Carlton Perspective

Peering at your computer or smartphone or having your back to the customer is not a warm welcome. It leaves a bad first impression.

DOs and DON’Ts of Greeting Customers in Person

  • DO be ready to serve. You should never make your customer wait while you take care of personal matters. You were not hired to text your friends or play games on your smartphone.
  • DON’T make the customer feel as if they have interrupted you. Your goal is to make your customers feel wanted and valued.
  • DO look for clues. A customer may be in a hurry or wet from the rain. What can you do to improve your customer’s experience right from the start?
  • DON’T treat your customer as if they’re invisible. This is especially true if customers are waiting in a line. You may not be able to get to each customer immediately. However, you can let customers know that you see them, and you will get to them as soon as you can.
  • DO smile and if possible use the customer’s name. Greeting your customers with a smile will help them feel welcome and referring to the customer by name will make them feel recognized.
  • DON’T mumble or use slang. If your customers are older, they may not understand slang or may even be offended by it. Your greeting should be warm, genuine and professional. 

Patient Experience Ob-Gyn


Early in her pregnancy, a woman visited an ob-gyn recommended by her primary care physician. The ob-gyn was nice, but after the visit the woman found it difficult to contact the doctor and was disappointed in the service. She decided to find a different doctor. The new ob-gyn practice she found offered a patient portal where she could email questions throughout her pregnancy and her doctor responded to all questions within 24 hours.


  • When patients’ needs aren’t met, they will look for another facility or doctor.
  • Communication is a vital part of the customer relationship. By offering a web portal, patients can ask questions and seek information 24/7.
  • By responding to patients’ questions within 24 hours, doctors can quickly allay fears and concerns or be alerted to potentially serious symptoms. 

Building Customer Relationships

The Ritz-Carlton Perspective

Treat customers as if they will remain customers. Do not treat them as though this is the last time you will see them.

DOs and DON’Ts of Building Customer Relationships

  • DO get beyond a transactional mentality. If you view customers with a hands-off “Next, please” attitude, you will never build a relationship.
  • DON’T rush customers. Customers know when they’re being hurried. Relationships take time. Qualities like trust, sincerity and care need time to develop and grow.
  • DO share some of your own life. Look for ways to connect with customers. Maybe you both root for the same sports team, or you both have children.
  • DON’T overshare. Although you’re building a relationship with customers, you still want to practice discretion and ensure that your customer is comfortable throughout your conversation.
  • DO follow up on past conversations. If your customer mentioned a new pet or told you about a hospital visit, be sure you ask for updates. Showing that you remember and care will strengthen your bond.
  • DON’T forget to give a fond farewell that includes gratitude and the expectation that you will see the customer again. 

Customer Service Software Company


A millennial tweeted her happiness over discovering a new feature of a popular software program. The large software company not only responded to her tweet, but also researched the background of the millennial and sent a tweet with a graphic recognizing the millennial on past achievements.


  • Your organization needs to be listening on social media. Millennials in particular often share their opinions and thoughts online.
  • The software company not only responded but also personalized its tweet. By customizing its tweet, it engaged with the millennial on a more personal level.
  • Organizations tend to reply to negative feedback, but the software company took the time to connect with the millennial over a positive comment. The company created a unique, personalized, memorable moment and consequently, strengthened brand loyalty. 

Customer Service Car Dealership


A lady had reached the end of her vehicle lease agreement and she was instructed to make an appointment with the car dealership to return the vehicle.

When the lady called the car dealership, the receptionist did not know where to direct her call. She asked the lady if she knew which salesperson had helped her three years ago. She connected the lady to the service department who then transferred the lady back to the receptionist. The lady was then transferred to a salesperson who represented a different car brand. The salesperson asked the lady to call back, and he hung up on her.

The lady looked through her records to find the salesperson’s name and then called back. She asked the receptionist to connect her with the salesperson, and the receptionist responded, “Are you sure?”

The lady was put on a hold for several minutes, and then the receptionist picked up the line and said, “May I ask who you’re holding for?” The lady repeated the salesperson’s name, and the receptionist said, “Oh, boy. All right.”

A few minutes later the receptionist got back on the phone and told the lady, “I’m sorry. He’s gone for the day. Would you like to speak to someone else?”


  • A receptionist is a little like an air traffic controller for your customers. The receptionist needs to direct customers safely to their final destination. If your receptionist does not have basic phone etiquette and does not know how to direct phone calls, your customer’s experience will be turbulent and frustrating.
  • This cannot be the first time the dealership had a leased vehicle returned, and yet, it seemed no one knew what to do. In order to best serve customers, your organization should have clear processes in place.
  • Even though the customer is turning in her vehicle, she may need a car in the future, or she could recommend the dealership to a friend. The dealership should still be focused on cultivating a relationship—rather than completing a transaction. 

Customer Service Legal Advice


A gentleman needed legal advice, and after reviewing a law firm’s website, he felt their legal team had the right background to help him. He reached out to the firm through their web “Contact Us” form. After three days of no response, he called the firm to see if they had received his inquiry. The receptionist initially put him on hold and then explained that they do not have time to follow up on web inquiries. She offered to take his information and have someone get back to him. The gentleman decided to look for a different law firm to meet his needs.


    • Organizations should not offer a “Contact Us” web form unless they have a follow-up process in place.
    • After filling out a web form, your prospective customers should receive an email verifying that their inquiry was received and letting them know how long it will take for you to respond.
    • Don’t make it too difficult for customers to work with your organization. The gentleman filled out a web form, had to call to follow up, was put on hold, was asked to provide his information again, and was told he would still have to wait to be helped. He concluded that the law firm was too busy, uncaring and would not be responsive to his needs. 

Customer Service Print Vendor


A lady had been working with a printer for several years. She needed a program printed for her dad’s memorial service and she knew this printer would do a lovely job. However, she also knew that this project was a much smaller job than he typically took on, and it was also a very tight turnaround time. She told the printer she understood if he was busy and if it didn’t fit in his schedule, but he graciously agreed to print the program. Not only was he willing to help, he also fixed the photos in the program, printed the program on special paper, and delivered the program to the lady’s workplace. The programs looked amazing and the lady was grateful and thrilled! But then the printer took it one step further. He refused to let the lady pay for his work. He insisted that she accept his work as a gift, and he explained that not only is kindness in the workplace the right thing to do, but it has also led to more work for his company.


  • The printer could have refused the job or treated her as another transaction. However, he took the opportunity to show genuine care during a difficult time for his customer.
  • While the printer expressed that kindness is part of his business strategy, he also recognized that kindness has a way of coming back to you. It can lead to loyalty and referrals.
  • Relationships with vendors and other service providers are more likely to last if the vendors are responsive and produce quality work.

Handling Upset Customers

The Ritz-Carlton Perspective

Customer comments can be hurtful. However, do not take them personally. Customers are upset at the situation—not at you.

DOs and DON’Ts of Handling Upset Customers

  • DO remain calm. If your customer is on fire, you want to be water. Take a deep breath and remain level-headed. You do not need to accept unrelenting rudeness. However, your responses must be professional.
  • DON’T become defensive. The customer’s frustrations are at your organization—not at you personally. Defensiveness tends to escalate conflict, and you risk having the customer feel misunderstood or resentful.
  • DO validate your customer’s emotions. Telling customers they need to calm down or that they’ve overreacted lacks empathy and that will not help defuse the situation. Better to say, “I see you are upset.”
  • DON’T blame others for the problem. Blame is an easy excuse. It is not a solution. Keep the focus on problem resolution. Your customers are more interested in solving the problem than knowing the history of the situation.
  • DO practice. As you gain more experience dealing with disgruntled clients, you will be less likely to be offended and be more skilled at keeping conversations professional.
  • DON’T forget to express gratitude. Thanking customers for their patience and for bringing the problem to your attention will only help ease tension. Gratitude can open the way to forgiveness. 

Customer Service Bank Mortgage


A young couple was buying a home for almost a million dollars. The day before the closing, the bank realized they were missing some vital information. They emailed the husband and asked him for the information. An hour later, they followed up with a phone call and told the husband that if he didn’t give them the information at that moment, he would not be able to close the next day.


  • The bank employees were clearly up against a tight deadline, but rather than threatening the husband with a delayed closing date, they could have used kinder language that conveyed the urgency of the situation such as, “Mr. Smith, in order to close tomorrow, we need your vital information right away. We apologize for any inconvenience, and we appreciate your help ensuring your closing moves forward as planned.”
  • The bank turned its crisis into an emergency situation for their customers. Customer service professionals often need to scramble to fix a problem, but the customer should not see the behind-the-scenes drama. The Credo of The Ritz-Carlton pledges to “instill well-being” to guests. Drama detracts from well-being.
  • A million-dollar sale is a large purchase, and the bank should have been working to build trust. These buyers wanted to feel that the bank was responsive, orderly, accurate and meeting their needs. A rude, last-minute phone call does not inspire confidence.