In the Trenches: Standing in the Customers' Shoes

BrettSnyder by Brett Snyder on October 26, 2011
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They always say that it’s a good idea to stand in your customers’ shoes every so often in order to be able to empathize. That’s probably particularly useful for a concierge business like ours, because we’re always trouble-shooting when people are in distress. This week, I’ve had the chance to sit on the other side, and I’m grateful for it, even though it’s been a miserable experience.

You may have heard about Hurricane Rina. She’s currently angling toward Cancun and should be there tomorrow, the same day that I’m supposed to arrive there for a wedding. As you can imagine, that’s not good. And I’ve been able to experience first-hand the grief, anger, annoyance, and everything else that comes with it.

I’ve been able to marvel at the hotel’s ability to explain to me that they don’t care if my flight was canceled. I still have to pay (at least, that was one agent’s take). Oh, they’ll be so generous to let me change my reservation to a later date, but considering the wedding isn’t changing its date, that’s completely unhelpful.

I’ve also struggled with the airline itself refusing to give much guidance on the situation. Flights are being canceled mere hours before departure without any concern for passengers having to make decisions further in advance. The “waiver” policy is truly unhelpful — only allowing you to shift your trip by a few days either way. Again, the wedding isn’t changing, so that’s what matters.

This is all incredibly frustrating… and I’m loving it. Let me clarify. I hate it with a passion. I want to personally go to the hotel and the airline and look directly into the eyes of the people making these policies in order to find out if they ever considered how a customer might feel in these situations. I want to call a million times until I find the one person who is willing to make an exception. And that’s why this is great.

This is exactly the kind of passion that we need to have when we’re helping our own customers. Sometimes it’s easy to forget about how difficult and frustrating situations like this can be unless you live them yourself every so often. This might be frustrating for me, but it can only be good for future customers when I’m better able to empathize with them.

BrettSnyder

Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.

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