This morning, Shawn and I compared recent airline lounge experiences. Mine went a like this
On Monday morning I took my Mum to the airport for her flight back to Melbourne. We arrived at about 9.15 am – the airport was as quiet as I have seen it. We had 30 minutes before the flight and Mum wanted a cup of tea. “No worries” says I. “we’ll nip into the Qantas Club for a cuppa”. At the entry desk, I showed my gold club card and explained that I wasn’t travelling that day, but wanted to come in to get Mum a cup of tea. “The rules say that if you’re not travelling you can’t come in” was the reply from the Qantas lady behind the desk. I asked if they were particularly busy at that time and the answer was ‘No, but we have had to turn other people away so we can’t let you in”. I left. Furious.
Shawn’s experience yesterday was very different.
Shawn took his daughter Georgia to the airport to collect a relative who was arriving. Georgia needed to go to the bathroom and Shawn noticed they were right next to the VirginBlue lounge. He went in, showed his card and explained. The response was “Its against the rules to use the lounge if you are not travelling, but its pretty quiet, so go ahead” They popped in for the necessary few minutes and left. Everyone was relieved.
One could argue that the Qantas staff member was being consistent (fair, equal) in her application of the rules. A good thing you might say, except that a very frequent traveller left with the resolve to travel VirginBlue in the future. In Shawn’s case, the staff exercised some autonomy, weighed up the situation and decided to be flexible, whilst still making it clear that it was ‘against the rules’. Which is the better example of customer service? It reminds me of my time in the Air Force where our mantra was “Rules are for the guidance of the wise and for the blind obedience of fools’.
Mark works globally with senior leadership teams to improve their ability to communicate clearly and memorably. He has been a Director of Anecdote since 2004 and helped the company grow into one of the world’s leading business storytelling consultancies. . Connect with Mark on: