airplane

Image courtesy of Юкатан

What common quality do nearly all of the news stories about incredible customer service have in common?  They are stories born from representatives and companies reacting to their customers’ needs and situations not as institutions, but as people.

Take for example the recent news story regarding Southwest Airlines:

Last month, Mrs. Peggy Uhle had just boarded a flight from Chicago to Columbus, Ohio.  While she was doing this, her husband was frantically trying to reach her to let her know that their 24-year-old son had suffered a traumatic brain injury and fallen into a coma in Denver.  Unable to reach his wife, who had powered down and stored her phone in anticipation of takeoff, Mr. Uhle called Southwest’s customer service.  Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the agent Mr. Uhle spoke with quickly jumped into action, alerting the pilot of the flight about the situation, putting into motion the logistics of getting the plane back to the gate, and putting Mrs. Uhle in contact with her husband.  A seat on the next flight to Denver was arranged for Mrs. Uhle free of charge, she was provided with a private area to await her new flight, she was allowed to board first, they provided her with a meal to take with her up her arrival in Denver, and her luggage was delivered to the hotel at which she would be staying.  And Southwest’s concern for Mrs. Uhle did not stop when they delivered her safely in Denver; she also received a followup call to ask how her son was doing (he continues to improve!).

The customer service representative that handled Mr. Uhle’s call acted with the compassion and concern one would expect of a friend or neighbor rather than of a giant corporation, and that is what makes this story even more special than the inherent rightness of taking care of someone in her time of need.  When we react to our customers not only as customers, but as people, and construct our solutions around this fact, it helps us more fully succeed in taking care of our customers.