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Customer Service

One of my favorite authors and speakers on the planet is Shep Hyken. I get his weekly message on Customer Service. This week’s message really hit home.

I thought, “what a nice message.” That was before I flew to Washington, D.C., this week on Southwest. I am an asthmatic and am severely allergic to dander. Dog, cat, horse, llama, alpaca, mice, hamster – it doesn’t matter. (Please don’t tell me that your dog doesn’t have dander . . . the last person that told me that watched me on a breathing machine at the kitchen table.)

When I got to Southwest’s gate in Dallas I saw that one of the passengers had a dog about the size of Rhode Island going with her. Lots of hair and lots of dander. I told the gate attendant that I needed to be FAR away from that dog. The pilot even came out and said to me they would be in the first row and I should pre-board right away and sit where I wanted to in the back of the plane.

I did so . . . but the agent didn’t take my ticket. No big deal. I was on the plane and far enough away from the dog. That was until I picked up some email late that night and Southwest CANCELLED my flight the next night because they thought I didn’t show up for my first flight.

Picture this. I’m in D.C. I flew there on Southwest and they are telling me I wasn’t on the plane. No problems . . . we all make mistakes and I knew why this one happened. I called the airline and explained what happened and why. Thirty five minutes later the agent on the phone, who was really trying to help me, explained that she really couldn’t because of their rules. I would need to go to the airport that night, or long before my flight the next night, to prove – in person – that I was there!

I told her I’d take a picture in front of the hotel … the Lincoln Memorial … or anywhere else. Getting back to the airport would really be an inconvenience and my meetings started the next morning at 8. She apologized profusely and told me that I needed to call the customer service line the next morning at 9 a.m. (they opened at 8 a.m. central) and punch in #5 for the option. Perhaps they could help me. Honestly, the person on the phone couldn’t have been nicer or tried harder. There were these “rules,” though, that prevented her from helping me.

At 9 a.m., exactly, I called. The person on the phone was great. It took another 25 minutes but she got everything handled. I didn’t have to go to the airport.

This goes back to Shep’s story.

A couple of lessons here. First, make sure your read Shep’s story. Next, look at your own operation and compare it to my experience.

MK made the comment, “Isn’t it strange that how you felt about Southwest last night and how you feel about them today is totally different?” Why? What one person was authorized to do to help a customer and what one person was prevented from doing.

How does that work in your organization?  Are your people authorized to solve problems . . . or are they simply authorized to follow the rules and lose a customer? Leaders understand this and give their people authority to solve problems. Thanks, Shep, for reminding me of this lesson!

Draft Choices

The night before the NFL draft Mary Kay and I were channel-surfing and saw that “Draft Day,” starring Kevin Costner, was on. I’ve seen this movie over a dozen times but MK had never seen it. What was key about this movie was that it was on the night before the real NFL draft was held.

I thought about the movie, the real draft and what we all go through trying to hire techs. My first thought was about all the challenges we have vs. what NFL teams have – but realized we are all in the same situation (just with a lot less money involved!).

Being a high draft pick doesn’t mean you are going to be an NFL star. The two that come to my mind are Ryan Leaf and Art Schlichter. Leaf is labeled as the biggest bust in NFL draft history – drafted #2 immediately after Peyton Manning in 1998. Schlichter drafted #4, just ahead of #5 Jim McMahon and #10 Marcus Allen in 1982.

Leaf played a few seasons and threw for 14 touchdowns. Wait – he also threw for 36 interceptions. Total yards – 3,666 – just a few behind Manning who threw for 71,940 yards. Leaf had drug issues—serious ones that landed him in jail. There is an ESPN E-60 story that shares his story.

Schlichter didn’t perform nearly as well as Leaf. He only threw for 1,006 yards, three of which were for touchdowns. He had 3 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He, too, ended up in jail – not for drug issues but for serious gambling issues, and eventually drug issues, that started when he was at THE Ohio State University.

How did the guys he beat out do? McMahon lead the ’85 Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl victory. Marcus Allen? 123 touchdowns and 12,243 total yards rushing.

Doesn’t this remind you of the challenges we face when hiring someone? Consider the fact that NFL teams spend months of research before picking someone from the draft. And they should!  Last year’s #1 pick made $30,427,374 while the #12 pick only made $13,868,013. Eleven positions and nearly $17 million more money.

Regardless of all the research the NFL teams do, the experts often get it wrong. Here are some names you will be familiar with, regardless of your age, and where they were drafted:

  • Joe Theismann – pick #99;
  • Bart Starr – pick #199 (you knew I’d get a Packer in here, didn’t you?);
  • Roger Staubach – pick #129;
  • Tom Brady – pick #199; and
  • Bo Jackson – pick #183.

Makes me feel better – doesn’t it you?

We interview someone, look at their resume, spend hours interviewing them and end up hiring them. I’ve found I often hired poorly. I learned, however, not to take it personally. Sometimes we find great employees and sometimes we find turkeys. Often I’m surprised, but always motivated, by the fact that the next great employee is just around the corner. We just need to find that technician.

The good news – we aren’t going to make a $30 million error. We’ll leave that for those NFL guys.