The Value of Positive Service Outcomes During Stressful Events


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Weather officials have not yet determined if the snowstorm that hit my hometown this weekend will be officially classified as a blizzard; but I can tell you that 40 mph winds and 15 inches of snow is close enough for me. It’s starting to warm up now, and my back is killing me from shoveling!

At any rate, I’d been on the road all week and wanted to get back to my family before the storm hit so I changed my flight times (more than once) and ultimately my destination airport hoping I might be able to arrive before the full impact of the storm. I did make it to Cincinnati which was close enough for a short drive home the next day; however, I had checked my luggage back in San Jose and was sure that would be the last time I would see it. When you start changing flights and destination airports, then factor in bad weather with several cancelled flights you are tempting the fate of your checked luggage no matter what airlines you are flying.

When the United Airlines delayed baggage customer service rep asked me the color of my luggage I started to laugh. It’s black! She also began to laugh – then said, “There is a lot of black luggage out there, but as long as your name is on it I’m sure we will find it and be able to deliver it to you.” It was hand delivered to my home just a few minutes ago. Providing a positive service outcome during a stressful event can influence customer relationships. I usually fly Delta, but I’ll have to admit that this positive experience is a door opener for United.

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Alan See
Alan See is Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of CMO Temps, LLC. He is the American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year for Content Marketing and recognized as one of the "Top 50 Most Influential CMO's on Social Media" by Forbes. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University.


  1. Hey, Alan, it’s great you got your baggage back. A story I heard that may be apocryphal is an interesting counter point. A friend tells me he was in line ready to check in and overheard the traveller in front of him becoming impatient and ultimately abusive towards the young trainee check-in clerk who he found too slow for his liking. The supervisor who was coaching the trainee stepped in to complete the check-in routine. The abuse stopped. My friend who was next in line stepped up. “That was pretty unpleasant,” he said. “Where is he travelling to?” “Oh, he’s flying to Johannesburg,” said the supervisor, “but I’ve sent his bags to Delhi.” Customer service staff have an unenviable job. They are constantly dumped on by unpleasant customers. Is the customer always right? Absolutely not. Customer service staff deserve respect, and no amount of customer-focus claptrap uttered by senior management should allow customers to get away with uncivil and abusive behavior. Francis Buttle

  2. Francis,

    Great story and I agree that abusive behavior is out of bounds. It is sad that common courtesy is so often forgotten. According to a survey by Harris Interactive and RightNow Technologies 85% of consumers say they’ve sworn, shouted, cried, smashed things, or experienced chest pains while waiting for help on tech-support call lines. There is no doubt that customer support and service in general (from high-tech to airlines to your local diner) is not easy work. In fact, my daughter is attending a local college and working part-time in customer services, and it breaks my heart to hear how some customers treat her.

    My goal with the customer service rep was to defuse some of the tension (there were many people in line who needed help due to the impact of the storm). I got her laughing with my “black luggage” comment; although I’m sure she still had a very long day!

    I suppose Dale Carnegie (“How to Win Friends and Influence People”) had it right; “begin in a friendly way” and “sympathize with the other person.”

    Alan See
    Blog: Welcome to Marketing 101


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