July 23, 2013

Lost Luggage...Vacation Fun

Gorgeous beach sunset
They lost our luggage, first thing.  Now that's a great way to start a vacation.  The real question, though, was how?  We had a direct flight from Charlotte, NC to Fort Myers Beach, FL.  No connection, no rush to catch a plane, so how do you lose someone's luggage?

Talented, I guess.

The baggage claims representatives in Fort Myers Beach kept insisting that we must have missed our luggage.  "Are you sure it's not there?  Did you check the ones in our office?"

That second question annoyed me each and every time they asked it.  Why?  Because we were standing in their office, a mere two feet from the baggage referred to.


So, where did it go?  Providence, Rhode Island.

Yes, you read that correctly, Rhode Island.

Really?  How?

They gave us an overnight essentials bag, pathetic in its offerings, and told us if our bags made it on the next flight, they would come in the next day around 11:19am.  We could drive back to the airport to get it, or, if we wanted them to deliver it, we would have it no later than 6pm tomorrow.

When I pointed out that this was a beach vacation, and we just lost an entire beach day, the representative looked at me and said, "It's probably going to rain, anyway."

I train customer service representatives on a regular basis.  Mistakes happen.  I get that.  The key is what you do when those mistakes happen.  I tell all of my workshop attendees this one secret:  The most powerful word in customer service is empathy.

Instead, we received denial.

"Your bags must be here."

"There's no way the bags aren't here."

"We don't know how it happened."

"It's probably going to rain, anyway."

We didn't even get an, "I'm sorry."

I travel a good bit, so I know lost luggage happens.  We knew they couldn't blink their eyes or snap their fingers to produce our baggage, but they could have apologized AND empathized with us.  The perfect opportunity came when I mentioned the lost day at the beach.  The woman could have said, "I would be disappointed, too, if this happened to me," or "Losing your bags on vacation can be frustrating."

No, it doesn't fix a thing, but it does express understanding and compassion.  It takes a few seconds and makes the world of a difference to the customers when the representative stops for a moment to acknowledge and accept what they are feeling.  Instead, our rep says, "It's probably going to rain, anyway."

Gee, thanks.

Incidentally, on our return trip, the same woman checked in our bags.  I told her to make sure they didn't go to Rhode Island.  Once she recognized us, she told us the bag scanners in Charlotte had not been working on the day we flew out.  (I guess the baggage handlers can't read either.) She promised our bags would make it home, and they did.  At least, the airline got that part right.

Luckily, that was one of the few hiccups in our vacation.  We enjoyed a wonderful week of the beach, gorgeous sunsets, a wide variety of wildlife, and, when it did rain, a movie.

What good or bad experiences have you had on a trip?   Did the people working with you express any empathy?

7 comments:

Kim said...

Unbelievable! I'm glad the rest of your vacation went well. Sounds like you could have an opportunity to do some training!
Kim

Barbara V. Evers said...

You would think, but most companies don't take well to a customer with experience offering to do training...no matter what their expertise.

Roiselyn Clements said...

One time when I was flying home from LA I had to deal with a flight attendant that wasn't too skilled in that department. The last place I expected it from too. Not only had my plane been delayed for two hours it was only my second time navigating airports by myself. I was tired from walking across the massive airport that was San Fran twice to find my flight. It was 2 AM. I was tired and stressed and worried. And then when I have trouble getting my bag into the overhang rack the flight attendant starts rushing me. She wasn't straight up rude but she made no offers to help me either.

Needless to say I had to take a moment breathing into my pillow not to start crying and was glad the lady sitting next to me made some nice conversation for a bit.

Customer service is important, especially when you have a job like being a flight attendant.

Barbara V. Evers said...

Roseilyn, what a trying experience for someone your age. I probably would have cried and been unable to prevent it.

J.E.S. Hays said...

You'd think that all service industries would have some sort of training in proper customer service! Perhaps the airlines do, and you just ran into someone who flunked the course - it's still amazing that people actually find it that difficult to empathize with someone in a situation like that! I think I'd have sat the woman down and had a little chat with her on proper technique...

Barbara V. Evers said...

As tempting as that is, no one appreciates, or listens to, a customer trying to instruct them about their job. It's better if done later through management.

Valerie Norris said...

I've told you about my daughter's Christmas Eve misadventure with lost luggage, haven't I? Her daughter's Santa gifts were in that bag! Airline finally delivered the bag around 2am. Right around the time Santa would have come!