I fly a decent amount and have had a lot of good and a lot of bad experiences with the airlines. The biggest issue I have with the airlines, especially my carrier of choice, is not that they make mistakes. I don’t expect any business to be perfect. At issue is how they deal with problems. Too often, their first reaction is to put the problem back with me. The protocol seems to be to assume first that the customer is wrong (blame), and take responsibility much later, if ever. How do you react when there is a problem with your product or service?
When I had an issue checking in to a flight this week, I immediately heard, “You must have entered your frequent flyer number in wrong… You must not have checked in properly… I see here, you didn’t pay a change fee.” But actually a previous agent didn’t complete the transaction properly, and there was no ticket number associated with the reservation. It is like being guilty until proven innocent. It is such a backwards method to customer service.
Are you a blamer or a solver? The first reaction of a greater part of businesses – especially those in service related businesses – is to react to a problem or complaint by assuming that the problem was caused by the customer. That’s why we set up FAQ pages, and often retrace the actions of our customers as a first step to solving the problem. Even if we try not to displace the blame from ourselves, our natural defense mechanisms kick in, and we typically react by deflecting any blame. Unintentionally then, the blame is often placed on the shoulders of our clients and customers.
Instead of taking this blamer approach, try the approach of a solver – listening to the whole problem your customer has, asking questions, checking and then solving – no matter who made the mistake. It seems like smarter business to me.
We are all customers to somebody. The best way to determine if our customers see us as solvers or blamers, is to consider how we react when something goes wrong with a business working with us. Consider what actions they take to resolve your problem and how it makes you feel. They may think they’re being helpful, while you feel they’re blaming you. For most of us, it is those companies that accept responsibility for the problem that make us feel like our problems are really being listened to and that we are being taken care of.
Are you ready to be a problem solver?