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?