Customer service supreme, even on a bad day

Whose bad day matters more? When a customer and an employee are both struggling with foul moods, endless work headaches or even distracting personal problems, the tie always goes to the person paying – not the person being paid. For most businesses, this is a common sense approach to managing customer relationships. I know that when I was frustrated or annoyed with a client, back in my corporate days, even hinting at my mood would invariably make my day far worse … as I’d wind up on the receiving end of my boss’s ire.

We routinely avoid restaurants and bars, hotels and professionals (e.g., doctors, lawyers and accountants) because of both actual and perceived slights. For this reason, especially in the professional services space, every effort is made to hide the symptoms of a bad day – and to tolerate those shown by clients. It’s the nature of the beast: making money matters more than expressing your frustration.So, I do find it strange when airline employees use this as an excuse for poor service. There have been plenty of examples of frustrated airline employees who have garnered support from their peers, from the orange juice meltdown on American Airlines to Steven Slater‘s recent slide to infamy. The level of sympathy in the industry, it seems, ranges from “bad day” to “I’ve always wanted to do that but never had the nerve.”

It’s time for the airlines to do what the rest of the business world has endured for years: deal with it. Everyone who’s worked in a customer- or client-facing position has had to soldier through a tough day when his client is unhappy. It may be painful, and we may know that we’re right … but ultimately, the business relationship comes first. Eventually, the customer emerges from his funk, and the investment made in tolerating the temporary difficulty pays off.

The first step toward being treated like a professional is acting like one. Endure customer madness with a smile, even if you’re having an awful day too, and the world will start to change.

[photo by Maks Karochkin via Flickr]