Show That You Value Your Customer!


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Several years ago I was on a flight to Sydney, Australia, seated next to a pregnant woman and her husband. The woman was around five or six months into her pregnancy, and noticeably quiet.

When the flight attendant asked if we wanted something to drink, the husband ordered for his wife: “Can you just bring some ice for my wife to chew on? She has a bit of an upset stomach.” The flight attendant returned shortly with a cup of ice, a cool compress for the woman’s head and some genuine concern. “Honey, do you want some soda water to settle your stomach? When was the last time you ate?”

Again the husband answered for his wife; “She didn’t really eat her dinner last night and she didn’t feel like breakfast today, but really, she’s fine with just the ice.”

I was curious as to why the husband did all the talking, until I finally overheard the woman speaking to her husband and immediately understood her reticence: she had a terrible, almost debilitating stutter and wanted to avoid drawing attention to herself at all costs.

The flight attendant, however, would not be deterred. “Tell you what; let me bring you some oxygen to suck on. We have a little portable tank, it will make you feel much better and it’s completely safe for the baby.” The expectant mother wanted nothing to do with this of course, as it would only draw more attention her. She emphatically signaled she did not want the oxygen.

“Listen, woman-to-woman and mother-to-mother, this isn’t about you. This is something you should do for the child.” When this still didn’t convince her, the flight attendant told me and the husband to get out of our seats. He and I stood there, in the aisle, while the flight attendant sat down next to the pregnant woman and quietly spoke to her for 5 – 10 minutes, ultimately convincing her to use the oxygen. It helped; just as the flight attendant had predicted, she appeared to feel noticeably better in around 30 minutes.

Before we landed the flight attendant returned and said quietly to her new friend “Listen, I’ve called ahead for a wheelchair to meet you at the gate when we arrive. Feel free to use it if you like, or not,” and then lowering her voice and smiling, added “but I’ll tell you what: it’s the quickest way to get through customs, and I’d use it if I were you.”

There are several reasons this experience stands out to me five-plus years after it happened:

  • We were not in First Class or even Business Class; we were just some regular folks in the Economy cabin. These people were not frequent flyers, so it was unlikely that this great example of customer service would result in more business for the airline.
  • The flight attendant did exactly what we suggest in our customer service training classes, and that is to take a step back to understand not just what the person has requested, but what the customer needs.
  • This was more than an example of an airline employee helping her customer. All the flight attendant had to do fulfill that obligation was to get the lady a cup of ice as originally requested. This went beyond anything the flight attendant would have learned in her job training; this was a person connecting with another person at a human level: experienced mother to first-time mother.

As this experience points out, sometimes the best way to show you value your customer is not to treat them like a customer, but first-and-foremost as a human being. That’s what this flight attendant did, and I have been a devoted customer of this airline ever since.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Seth Brickner
Seth Brickner is a Developer and Facilitator with Impact Learning Systems International. In addition to training and development, his background includes education, technical support and customer service. When not traveling or in front of a computer monitor, Seth can be found running, cooking, playing guitar, reading, convincing himself he can sing, or enjoying the hiking trails of Colorado.


  1. Really inspiring. That should be the nature of customer service. Some employees would just give up on instances like that and would have no qualms of saying that they will not be responsible for any trouble that may happen.


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