Monthly Archives: July 2016

How customer service has made me a better person

Can I just be a customer and not critique?
This week I experienced a few service failures. One had to do with being overcharged on my credit card. Another had to do with delivery of a new refrigerator. And lastly, service received at the local grocery store. In the case of the overcharge, the total bill was $23, I tipped $5 for a total of $28. Apparently the server rang in a tip of $28 on a $23 bill for a total of $51. I noticed the error while reconciling my bank statement. I called the restaurant and was promised a call back from the manager I spoke with. When I did not hear back from the restaurant it made me nervous. So I paid a visit to the restaurant with my copy of the receipt. The manager was apologetic, assured me the issue would be fixed, and offered me a free meal. Two days later, a credit of $28 posted to my bank account. In the case of the refrigerator, the two delivery guys were behind the 8-ball. They had very little idea of how to deliver a refrigerator, didn’t know how to use the hand truck, almost damaged my door and new counter tops, had no tools with them to remove the packing crate, and spoke very little English. My bilingual FA friend who lives in LA was most helpful at such an early hour. I will need to follow up with the major department store around this service failure. I want to bring to their attention how this contract company is tarnishing their brand. Later that morning the local grocery store I visit, which normally provides great customer service, let me down. The cashier was having such a great, fun conversation with the guy bagging my grocery, that she barely noticed and interacted with me. I thanked the guy bagging my grocery and he didn’t even respond. They had more dialogue between themselves than I did. By end of the day I felt deflated, tired, and even more aware of customer service provided by others.
Providing customer service is a major part of my job. In addition, I facilitate classes on how to be more customer service-oriented. There are times when I say to myself, “Can I just be a customer and not critique?” It’s difficult to disconnect and just be a customer. For those who are in customer service roles, I’m sure you know what I mean. For people like us, we tend to give the person providing customer service the benefit of the doubt, tip 20% or more, hold doors open more often, look people in the eye when speaking to them, and say thank you when the other person says thank you first. “No, thank YOU.” As if we must get the last thank you in.
It has been said before that eyes are the window to the soul. The next time you’re interacting with someone look into their eyes. No, I mean really look. And let’s be clear, there’s a difference between looking, and staring. There’s a wealth of information that you can receive. It is in these moments between you and other person that you have a golden opportunity to connect on a level deeper than your role or your job. It is in these moments that you have the opportunity to connect on a level that lets the other person know that “you matter to me.”
At this stage of life I’m more aware than ever before of the customer service that is being given to me. At the same time I’m more aware of the service I provide others. Over the years I found that providing customer service has made me a better person. Or has being a better person made me give better customer service? Either way, it’s all good.
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When is an emotional support animal not an emotional support animal?

ESA. Emotional support animals. So many things have been said and written about this topic. Conversations around those gaming the system as a way to not pay for traveling with their pets in the cabin has reached a fever pitch. As a former flight attendant, I assisted numerous passengers with disabilities who traveled with their service animals. These companions, life savers for many, provide an invaluable service. And as we know passengers with disabilities have the right to travel with their service animals who assist them with their daily needs. As for passengers with emotional needs, emotional support animals are a necessary companion to function in everyday situations. Let’s be clear: there is a distinction between service animals and emotional support animals. According the ada.gov site:

“Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets.”

According to Wikipedia, the definition of an emotional support animal states:

“An emotional support animal (ESA) is a companion animal which provides therapeutic benefit, such as alleviating or mitigating some symptoms of the disability, to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability. Emotional support animals are typically dogs and cats, but may include other animals. In order to be prescribed an emotional support animal by a physician or other medical professional, the person seeking such an animal must have a verifiable disability.”

Back to the feeling amongst many that the emotional support animal situation is “getting out of hand.” Just today the following tweet was posted and has garnered lots of attention:

Things have gotten so far “out of hand” that Florida makes it a crime to register your dog as a service dog when in fact it is not. Those caught being dishonest are subject to a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. This new law does not apply to those passengers traveling with emotional support animals.

Again, many things have been written and said about emotional support animals. One day, while facilitating a FA continuing qualification course (annual re-qualification class), the subject of emotional support animals came up. Some in the class had very strong feelings about those passengers who are dishonest with their pets. As the facilitator I remained neutral, allowed conversation to proceed, keep class on track with facts around passengers with disabilities and important it is for us to care for them. After some discussion, one of the FA in the class shared that her daughter travels with an emotional support animal. She also shared that hearing some of her colleagues speak in unkind terms about those with emotional support animals was appalling. You could have heard a pin drop.

As a matter of law, those traveling with disabilities, thank goodness, have rights governed by the Air Carrier Access Act. Legislation of this nature comes around because people with disabilities were not (and in certain circumstances, still not) being treated fairly with dignity and respect.

So, what is the “solution”? How do you determine who’s being dishonest? What impact does this have on those with a legitimate need to travel with an emotional support animal? Or should we just mind our own business?