waiting at airport

Jeff and I are stuck in the airport right now. Our flight arrived late and we raced across the terminal, breathlessly hauling our luggage, only to watch our plane slowly pulling away just as we arrived at the gate.

Hello, Detroit springtime! Translation: it’s snowing and our rescheduled flight will likely be delayed, too.

What can I take from this unhappy stuck-in-the-airport-for-six-hours situation that applies to our wedding business?


3 Customer Service Lessons from Our Delta Debacle

1) Remember: your client is clueless. Take her hand and make it easy for her.

I’m fairly clueless when it comes to air flight travel. If I fly once every two years, it’s a lot.

Plunk me down in any given airport and I’ll flash a smile and figure out where to go and how to get there, but it’s still stressful for me.

The bride and groom are in a similar situation when it comes to planning the wedding. No matter how much time they spend researching online, cutting out pictures in bridal magazines and yucking it up in the chat rooms, they’ve never done this before.

Behind that sophisticated exterior, even the most educated bride is full of anxiety and stress. Am I doing the right thing? Am I going to make a mistake that will ruin my wedding day?

This is the perfect opportunity for you to step in and rescue her from the doubt and confusion. Reassure her that she’s doing a great job. Gently guide her toward the next step in her planning. Make it as easy as possible.

If you can lift that burden of worry, she’ll happily pay you for it.

This morning I stood at the kiosk trying to force it to read the barcode on my ticket confirmation. A more experienced traveler let me know that the scanner doesn’t work well and suggested entering my confirmation number instead.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that little tip. What was second nature for him was a challenge for me.

Remember that the next time the bride or groom come up with a dumb idea.

2) When something goes wrong…and it will…don’t blame your client. Even if it’s his fault.

Jeff and I made our way down to the ticket counter to reschedule our flight, still exhausted from our race across the terminal. We explained to the attendant that our flight had been delayed, causing us to miss our connection through no fault of our own.

The imposing attendant looked down over her glasses at us. “You know you’re supposed to leave at least two hours between your connecting flights.”

You can imagine how helpful that was. Delta let us place our reservations with a 34 minute layover. Their plane is delayed and somehow it’s our fault.

Now maybe it’s true that we should have left a bigger gap between our flights (lesson learned: even if Delta lets you buy tickets for a connecting flight 30 minutes apart, don’t expect them to be on time.) But as a non-frequent flier, how am I supposed to know that?

When we’re dealing with the clueless bride, she’s doing to do clueless things. Maybe she don’t leave enough time for photos or she forgets to order sides for the tent or she forgets to tell you a critical piece of information you need to do your job.

We know how things should be done to pull off a successful wedding and she doesn’t. She’s going to mess up.

When she does, don’t blame her. Sympathize with her and help her make the best of it. She’ll be ever so grateful for your help cleaning up her mistakes.

3) When you do mess up, admit it. Then make it right.

More griping about Delta. They made an implied promise to be on time when they sold us those tickets. And they failed us.

Did that surly attendant apologize? No.

Did she admit that any mistake had been made? No. She gave us a lecture instead.

That is not the way to win repeat business.

What if this had happened instead? When we explain our situation to the young woman behind the counter, she says…

“I’m so sorry for your delay.” She smiles sympathetically. “Tell you what: I’m going to find the next flight to your destination and book you First Class. Plus, take these vouchers and have lunch on us. We’re so sorry for the inconvenience we caused.”

In my imaginary scenario, I feel acknowledged, understood and taken care of. By treating us right, she has the chance to make repeat customers out of us, despite their mistake.

When we make a mistake in our wedding business…hey, it happens to the best of us…it’s tempting to let it slide or deny it.But admitting your mistake and then doing whatever is necessary to repair the relationship pays dividends down the line.

Every customer support challenge is a chance for you to win a lifelong customer if you handle the situation correctly.

Jeff’s advice for weary delayed travelers? “Bring snacks and a good zombie book.”

What business lessons have you learned from your own customer service experiences?

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Stephanie Padovani

Stephanie is a Hudson Valley wedding insider, blogger, writer, and wedding business coach. Want to book more weddings at higher prices? Quit dealing with price shoppers? Transform your wedding business so that it supports the life you really want? Look her up! They don't call her the Wedding Business Cheerleader for nothing. :)

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15 thoughts on “Stuck in the Airport Blues: 3 Lessons for Your Wedding Business”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am so new to writing emails and text to brides when i get inquiries and leads, what is the best way to write a bride an email that will attract them to email bk or call you?

    1. [quote name=”Kim Hendrix”]what is the best way to write a bride an email that will attract them to email bk or call you?[/quote]

      Kim, this is a great question! I’m actually about to write a blog post about this topic later on today.

      Until then, check out this article about the 2 Email Subject Lines That Get Brides to Open Emails…

  2. Anonymous says:

    Nice way to make your point.

    I recently had some flight issues on the way to and back from a wedding I was shooting. It was just after the Christchurch earthquake and many of NZd’s planes were being sent to CHCH to fly people out. My flight down was delayed and my flight home cancelled but I could tell that the poor Air NZ staff were doing everything they could to get people where they needed to go. Despite waiting all day in an airport and having to fly home a weird way I got there and felt looked after. It’s funny how a simple acknowledgement of the situation and heres what we are doing to remedy it will make you feel better about a bad or otherwise frustrating situation.

    It’s a really good point to remember for our own businesses, thanks :)

    1. That’s exactly it, Reatha! If the attendants had said something like, “I’m so sorry. How frustrating!” or “I apologize for the inconvenience. Let’s see how I can help…” I would have felt so much better.

      Instead, we got a lecture. Somehow it’s [i]our [/i]fault. Yeesh.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Another good article Stephanie. Everyone likes to feel validated and supported!! A little hand holding and pampering eases the client’s stress. Your ideal airport customer service scenario was too funny. If you are connecting to a domestic flight, Detroit’s minimum 20 minutes just isn’t reality based… A good travel agent who knows you don’t fly often would not have put you on that tight connection. I hope the rest of your journey goes well.

    1. We actually had 37 minutes between flights, but our plane got in 20 minutes late. We ran/speed walked over a mile to our terminal and got there just as it was pulling away. :sad:

      Our flight was delayed for “maintenance issues” on the way back, too.

      So true! Anyone who knows the Detroit terminal would never book that close. Another benefit of hiring a professional that you don’t learn about until it’s too late.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks so much for the reminder!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I like Jeff’s advice :)
    Great advice to lead your clients through the process as they’ll most likely be clueless. It’s so easy to forget that it’s not second nature to everyone when we’ve been through the wedding process countless times over.

    1. Emily, I remind myself all the time. Jeff helps sometimes, too.

      Like when I start “geeking out” about an SEO concept and his eyes glaze over…

      We’re all beginners at something. It really adds a lot to our customer service if we remember what it’s like to feel clueless.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is a great article! It’s so important to make customers and clients feel understood and like you’re really helping! Thanks for the tips, as always Stephanie and Jeff!!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I need to add Lesson #4 ….


    Worst customer service, attitude and morale in the industry – consistently horrific from airport to airport!

    The only time to fly Delta is if your only other choice is Greyhound.

    1. [quote name=”Dan Blankowski”]I need to add Lesson #4 ….

      NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER … fly Delta![/quote]

      Wish I’d talked to you before we booked our flights, Dan. :-)

  8. Anonymous says:

    I had a great customer service moment the other day and your imagined story reminded me of it. My spouse and I were seated at local restaurant, Bob’s Your Uncle, Iowa City, Iowa, and it was later around 8 pm on a Saturday night. The waitress was not notified we were there and proceeded to not come check on us, get our drinks or order for over 10 minutes. Finally, I got up and went to the host as I knew she knew we were there. She apoligized and said she would get the waitress out right away. Skeptical, I went back to the table. She brought us waters, took our drink order and told us an appetizer was on the house. Once we had our drinks and had ordered, I used the restroom and returned back to a great spinach and artichoke dip appetizer. We ran out of bread so we were not going to eat the rest of the dip, but they very nicely offered to bring more bread out. Needless to say, by the time our food came, we were happy and so glad we were having a great experience. I have told several people about this great restaurant, as they made sure their mistake was not the last impression I had of them. Wow your clients, especially after a mistake!

    1. Alison, I love this customer service story! A little time and TLC can really win a customer, and multiple referrals, for life!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thank you again for the great advice!

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