I was visiting a client a few weeks ago and after turning left as I exited the elevator, I was greeted with an empty reception desk. No big deal as that has happened before. So, I simply signed in like I knew I would have to and stood there waiting for someone to enter the room and say, “May I help you?”
Standing in the lobby, I was able to see into the call center as the entire wall was glass and allowed a clear view of one entire side of the floor. The interesting thing is that not only did I have a clear view of the office, but the workers on the other side of the glass also had a clear view of me.
Two minutes turned into five minutes which turned into ten minutes. Still no receptionist. And during that ten-minute wait, I continued watching all of the employees working at their desks and multiple times locked eyes with an employee. Most of those “locks” were just glances as the employee would not look me in the eye for very long. There was even one employee who looked at me as she walked by the glass wall and, several minutes later, looked at me again as she passed by in the opposite direction!
Finally, a person from the Facilities department entered the lobby and just before she passed through the glass wall to the employee side, she stopped, turned, and asked, “Have you been helped?” Well, as a matter of fact, no! I gave her the name of my contact and with a smile she replied, “I’ll find someone who can help.”
She returned just a few seconds later with an employee who then escorted me to my meeting. This Facilities person also apologized for my wait-time in the lobby.
A similar “It’s-not-my-job” mentality took place at O’Hare airport a few years ago as I was waiting to depart for Dallas on United Airlines. The incoming flight was already a few minutes late and when it pulled up to the gate, there was no one to move the jet bridge to the plane.
At the gate next to mine stood two United gate agents talking to each other. No plane at this gate, no passengers. Just two United agents enjoying a good little chat. After a couple of minutes waiting for the jet bridge to move, I took about a dozen steps to these two agents, pointed out the jet bridge delay, and asked for some help. One of the agents replied, “That’s not my gate,” and then returned to her conversation.
So people are waiting to get off one plane and I’m trying to get back to Dallas, and all you have to say is, “It’s not my job.” Now, in their defense, maybe there was a union rule that prevented them from working that gate – maybe. But how about making a call to find the appropriate gate agent? How about an “I’m sorry for the delay” or even a smile? I guess apologies and smiles aren’t in the United gate agents’ job description either.
Exceptional customer service is an easy concept but difficult to carry out. The starting point for an outstanding customer experience is a mindset that the customer is everything. This mindset must permeate the entire organization. It must be talked about relentlessly and lived out by all levels of the organization.
So next time you see someone waiting in your lobby, even if you’re in IT, Accounting, Payroll, Operations, Legal, or any other position, make it your job to delight the waiting customer by welcoming them and asking how you can be of service.
The customer is not always right but the customer should always be king.
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