Hypozeuxis and the real issue with airline customer service

Let's dispense with the analysis surrounding the latest uproar across the airline industry - I think we can all agree that this past month has been rife with click-bait stories and depictions of end-of-days cataclysms triggered by - customer service.

We can all agree that there are strict guidelines and rules around air travel that make is safer for all us to fly.

But what about the hard-working, unsung heroes of the airline service industry that must constantly make hard choices and ensure passenger comfort and safety? It's been well-documented that the stress serving clients in the shared, confined space of a passenger airplane poses unique challenges, even by customer service industry standards.

The real issue is the tired rhetoric around the rules when employees are not empowered to use judgement and creative thinking to solve an immediate issue. Rules are important and critical to customer safety and comfort, but there are always ways to accommodate everyone with minimal feather-ruffling.

Empower your agents

When a contact center uses a  command-and-control management style, it hampers team productivity, engagement, and performance. If you know that any exchange or request that goes beyond the established script is going to be escalated, you create a zombie-state within your team. Why would anyone go above and beyond if it means waking up the manager (figuratively speaking, I hope) to get permission to help someone?

Information is power: there are 2 important kinds of information to enable agents to perform at their very best:

  1. Corporate mission (objectives, goals, KPIs, service levels)
  2. Progress and standing: basically, the agent's scoring on the above

Let agents self-manage

Trust each agent to do their very best to handle anything that comes their way. If you can't, then I suggest you revisit your hiring process. People want to solve issues when they arise, it's that simple. Have you ever heard a candidate tell you during an interview that their proudest moment was when they turned an ugly situation into a positive customer experience? Of course you have. Now, have you ever heard someone tell you that under the category of "things I like least about my job", that they can't stand solving problems? If so, I hope they aren't on your staff right now.

The point is, the lack of faith in our most valuable asset - people - never ceases to astound and confuse me. 

Instead of setting up your team for failure, make sure they are given every opportunity to succeed. Nothing is more expensive than a micro-managed, low-morale, "I just work here" kind of atmosphere. You will lose customers, and you will never have a team that willingly supports your mission.