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Last December, I was sitting in the Baltimore Airport next to a departure sign that seemingly every second was changing takeoff times to the red, dooming canceled.

First it was cities to the north. Then there were murmurs of high winds near the Great Lakes. Buffalo went red. I stirred with the rest of the hopefuls at our gate, trying to wish ourselves out of delayed and on a flight to Cleveland.

After waiting, and waiting and waiting, we got our wish. There was a collective sense of relief, but not excitement. It was late and the evening wasn’t over.

Our gate attendant must have sensed some annoyance. As we were about to board, he quipped that he knew we were all eager to get home but that there is a boarding process we must follow.

And I paraphrase:
“Please do not run, push or shove your way to your position in line. All of you will board the plane. All of you will sit in uncomfortably small seats. All of you will experience the same turbulence. And all of your butts will land on the runway in Cleveland at the exact same time.”

It doesn’t sound that funny now. But that Southwest employee completely lightened the mood. Not only did he crack some smiles, but he had the once-gloom actually laughing.

He handled the situation with one joke. It was that simple.

I’ve flown multiple times since then on other airlines; I don’t remember those experiences. And when I remember that day in Baltimore, the first thing I think about is not the long wait – it’s how funny and nice our gate attendant was.

It was no surprise to me when it was announced this week that Southwest toped the Consumer Report rankings for best airlines. If you’ve ever heard Lawn & Landscape columnist Marty Grunder talk, you know he wouldn’t be surprised by the news, either. Just the day before my experience, he was preaching about Southwest’s great customer service at Agrium Advanced Technologies Green Industry Grad School.

When you thinking about customer service, think about how you can make someone’s day. Remember the little details. And put thought into which employees will be interacting with the customer.


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May 12th, 2011 at 8:49 pm

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