Being Off Duty Doesn’t Mean You Aren’t Responsible for Customer Service (and More)


Share on LinkedIn

This may start out to sound like a rant, but it isn’t. It’s simply the set up for the customer service lesson to be learned.

I’m at an airport, working my way through the security line for about fifteen minutes. During this time , a number of flight attendants and airline personnel went ahead of me and everyone else, cutting in front of paying passengers to get through the metal detectors and x-ray machines. What I noticed is that most of these airline employees didn’t smile or talk to the passengers as they cut in front of them. Some of the passengers were obviously put off by this. I was thinking to myself. There has to be a better way.

There was one person, a captain, that handled the situation differently. He said the right things; good morning, excuse me, etc. He was almost apologetic about cutting the line. And, not surprisingly, the passengers were very accommodating as they let him go through ahead of them. (First lesson, but not the real lesson for this article: Being polite and kind can be the “sugar that makes the medicine go down.”)

There was a lack of tact, a rudeness, that the airline employees demonstrated as they exercised their “right” to cut the line. As the captain proved, a smile and a few polite words can go a long way. All of these people are representatives for the airline they work for, branded with a logo and uniform, and anytime they are in front of their paying passengers, they are creating impressions and adding to the customer experience. By the way, I had the chance to talk to the nice captain who went ahead of me in the security line. His comment was that the flight attendants and airline personnel view their time in the security line as being on their way to work. In other words, they aren’t “officially working” until they get to their station or on their plane.

So, the line system in some airports is a bit flawed. From city to city, there is an inconsistency. Sometimes there is an employee line. Other times there isn’t, and that may be the problem. The easy solution to fix the problem is to always have an employee line. But, that is not what this article is about.

In the past I’ve written about people who are not at work, but are still are wearing a uniform. Or the truck driver that is done with his shift and heading home in the truck that has the company name painted on the side. Even though these people are off duty, they are still representing the company. Where they work is easily identified, and until they get into their own clothes or switch to a personal vehicle, they are still in a sense, on duty, representing their company even though they are not officially on the clock.

Disney has this situation figured out. They teach their employees, known as cast members, about being on stage and back stage. Back stage they can take off the uniform and be themselves. On stage they must be ambassadors for Disney. Mickey, Donald and Snow White act the part and warm the hearts of the children and parents. Back stage they can take off their masks, relax and get out of character.

So, the lesson is simple. Even if you are off duty, to a customer you may still be on duty. If it is obvious (because of a uniform, the sign on the side of your truck, etc.) that you work for a company, you must continue to represent the company you work for in a way that promotes a positive impression.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Shep Hyken
Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. As a customer service speaker and expert, Shep works with companies who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. He is a hall of fame speaker (National Speakers Association) and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here