Lifehack for the day: Make your customer service experience vastly better for only the cost of your attention.

Here’s an example.

In meeting the demands of my coaching business, I fly inter-island frequently between four of Hawaii’s larger and most populated islands. I’ve racked up enough miles to normally access the up front aisle seat selections with my online bookings, and my road warrior habits are pretty fine-tuned at this point; I’m primed to dig into some mobile work I’ve packed to go within mere seconds of settling into my chair and buckling my seat belt.

By the time the flight attendant begins their safety briefing I’m well into some project work I’ve brought with me. However once they launch into their briefing, I stop whatever I’m doing, look up attentively, and give them an audience.

At first they are just going through the motions pretty distractedly, for they’ve done it a hundred times before to scores of people who pay them no heed whatsoever. They are more like automated robots than breathing human beings, except that their discomfort is so visible. They’re rushing through it to escape the boredom and indignity of it all as soon as they possibly can, and their speeding hand motions do not match up to the voice over the cabin loudspeakers meant to accompany them. They can do the most unconscious things midstream, like chewing on a wisp of hair which flicked across their lips, scratching their noses, or openly frowning at some passenger who has irritated them, so confident are they that of the dozens of people facing them all eyes are turned away.

Sometimes they’ve become so wooden in their self-preservation they will never notice I am watching them, despite my choice seat selection in what should be their most direct view point. Completely oblivious to the voice still talking about the safety card in our seat pockets, they’re scrambling to return their oxygen masks and other props to the overhead bin where they get stashed, for that will mark the end of the entire distasteful affair for them.

However when they do notice me watching and smiling at them, something else happens. The effect is always the same.

Initially, they continue at the same let’s get this over with pace, and their eyes warily watch to see if they’ll be able to hold mine or not. I acknowledge their gaze, and keep smiling at them, now a little brighter, and they quickly take in the astounding fact that I am not just as bored as they are —I’ve actually stopped my work, my looks important work, to pay attention! Amazing; I really am watching and listening.

Now they smile back, and they begin to slow down. The robot disappears, and I can see the warmth of their very human spirit begin to surge through them. I start to see why this person was hired as the appealing face of the airline, and for the next few moments their aloha has surfaced to bask in its glory. The safety briefing has become important again. They have become important again, and the entire dynamic has changed.

What was the difference? I was. Not me specifically, but my attention and my respect for what they were doing. We as customers can make all the difference in the world; we can effect the warm and gracious customer service experiences we want by the way we ourselves engage and participate in them.

I love when I’m able to achieve this bright spot in the monotony of a flight attendant’s day. The minutes are so few, and the result so large. The entire flight seems to go so much better after that. Hawaiian interisland flights are barely longer than 45 minutes per leg, and it’s rare that I will need any service. However should the need arise, you can be sure I get served well; my now smiling flight attendant is watching to be sure I do.

In this holiday season, where great customer service gets increasingly harder to find in the frenzy of shopping’s busiest time, help those serving you to feel you care about what they do. You can make your own magic happen too.


Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is the founder of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership. For more of Rosa’s ideas, click to her Thursday columns in the archives; you’ll find her index in the left column of www.ManagingWithAloha.com

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