Compassion – The Critical Component in Customer Service

I love great customer service, as you know. And if you really know me, you also understand just how personally I take great service. It’s because I really understand how important it is to knock your socks off; to be helpful; to be understanding; to be compassionate. Furthermore, even though I or my team may not get it right 100% of the time, it’s stories like this next one that give me hope that J –  I.T. Outsource can and will always shoot for perfection, at least in the realm of I.T. Support.

Unfortunately, this story begins with tragedy. Out of respect for the family, real names have been changed.

Early one morning, Mike Smith received the terrible news that his 3-year-old grandson in Denver had been murdered by his daughter’s live-in-boyfriend. The poor child was being kept on life support as his mother had made the excruciating decision that her son should be an organ donor. As of 9:00pm that very night, more than 2 dozen people were to receive the child’s gift, saving many lives.

In LA on business, and flying Southwest Airlines, Mr. Smith made arrangements to change his ticket to reroute his early return flight through Tucson to Denver. The change had to be made quickly to accommodate a no-fee ticket change and also to get to his grandson’s bedside and help his daughter with the passing. Mr. Smith was able to use one of his many free Southwest tickets to get on to Denver, and by using the free ticket was forced to call a Southwest ticketing agent (rather than online ticketing). The ticketing agent was nearly in tears upon hearing Mr. Smith’s story.

At LAX, the lines were extra-horrendous, and even though Mr. Smith had gotten there the recommended 2 hours ahead of time, he still found himself getting later and later for his flight as he attempted to move through the molasses lines at check-in and at security. He had tried explaining his situation to Southwest employees and to the TSA every step of the way, but it is no surprise that, according to Mr. Smith, they “couldn’t have cared less.”

When he had finally gotten through security, he grabbed his computer, his belt and his shoes, and ran to the gate in his stocking feet. He was 12 minutes late, an eternity for any airline, much less an airline with the best on-time record.

When he got to the gate, he was greeted by the pilot and the ticketing agent.

“Are you Mike?” they asked, “We held the plane for you and we’re so sorry about the loss of your grandson.”

As he walked down the jet way with the pilot, Mr. Smith said, “I can’t thank you enough for this.”

“They can’t go anywhere without me” replied the pilot, “and I wasn’t going anywhere without you. Now relax. We’ll get you there. And again, I’m so sorry.”

Mr. Smith took a long awaited deep breath, and that Southwest Airlines pilot proved that even in an industry wrought with uncaring, unfeeling and idiotic people, great service can still exist if someone will just stop, listen, and care.

I only hope my team can deliver that level of compassion to all of my clients.

Photo Copyright 2010 via Flickr – License