customerserviceexpectations“Rather than waste money trying to fool your customers, why not take exceptional care of the people who interact with your customers?” — Misti Burmeister

Most leaders know that customer service is key to retaining a solid customer base. In fact, companies spend billions of dollars every year on customer service training and advertisements meant to show how customers are their first concern. Problem is, advertisements pale in comparison to the real deal.

The day before Thanksgiving, I arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare airport 30 minutes early, which meant I could potentially jump on an earlier flight. Rather than spend the extra $75 to change flights at the customer service desk, I headed over to the gate to see if I could switch without a fee. (Yes, I’m cheap!)

When I got to the gate, there was one United Airlines employee at the counter. I asked how she was doing, and she responded, “Trying to keep up. There’s just three of us here today … me, myself, and I.”

She was responsible for every customer and flight crew need, along with checking people in and ensuring everyone knew when to board.

As she was adjusting my ticket, a gentleman approached her from the side with a “quick question.”

“You’re going to have to wait in line just like everyone else,” she told him, pointing to me and the one person behind me.

“It’s no problem,” I said, hoping to give way for his quick question.

“I don’t know how they do it where you’re from,” she told him. “But we wait in line here!”

I felt bad for the guy. She was obviously under quite a bit of pressure. But I imagine he was, too, considering it was the day before Thanksgiving and he was clearly in a foreign country.

Later, as my plane taxied out, they played the usual safety video, which I’ve heard a zillion times, so I started to tune out. That is, until I heard the lady in the video say, in a cheerful voice, “I’ve worked for United Airlines for nearly 30 years.”

Then a gentleman (in the video) said, “I’ve been with the company for more than 25 years.”

The video closed with the tagline: “Customer service is a top priority for us here at United Airlines.” Then each “employee” in the video repeated his or her own version of the same.

As I listened to them, I wondered how much it cost to produce that video – and what might happen to their customer service if they had put those dollars toward “employee service,” or taking exceptional care of their employees (like providing extra support for the lady at the ticket counter on one of the busiest travel days of the year).

Rather than waste money trying to fool your customers (when you’re paying people to say nice things about your company, it’s not very convincing), why not take exceptional care of the people who interact with your customers?

If deception leads to blog posts like this, what leads to both employees and customers speaking well of a company? Just as apples do not fall from acorn trees, good customer service does not come from videos. It comes from authentically caring for the people who work for your company.

Join the Conversation: What outcome are you striving to create? And how could you better reach that outcome by investing time and money in caring for your employees?

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across GenerationsHidden Heroes and Power Suck.

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