With another holiday season just around the corner, many travelers are making plans to see friends and family. Serving and protecting these holiday travelers is the job of everyone in the airline industry. Because the holidays are one of the busiest times of the year to fly, now is the time to think about ways to prepare your staff for the crowds, the delays, and the stressed-out, impatient, angry passengers. A little planning can help reduce angry passengers and improve the morale of staff.
With crowds come lines. Lines are nothing new, but they can lead to missed flights and flared tempers that are often directed at your staff. If your staff is not prepared, they could make the situation worse, or burn out on the job. While queueing theory is an expansive area of study, a few ideas can be implemented for any type of line.
People feel the wait time is less if there is something to distract them. While it is not always possible to entertain travelers, staff can distract customers with polite conversation or go through the line to see if they can proactively answer any questions that can help ease the anxiety and perceived wait times.
People feel less anxious about wait times if they know how long the wait will be. Some airports have signs posted in security lines, for example, stating how long the expected wait time is from a particular spot. While the average wait time to go through security is about 10 minutes, the TSA nonetheless is seeking new approaches to queueing to help make the experience less painful for everyone. Until then, staff can reduce waiting anxiety by verbally informing travelers how long the expected wait time will be and how everyone can help reduce this wait time further.
Inevitably, the delays and the stress of holiday travel will get to some people who will try to take it out on your staff. Prepare your staff with a process of dealing with these customer complaints so both your company and customers will come out on top. Role play scenarios so your staff’s response becomes second nature.
If you have your own company policy for managing customer complaints, review it at every staff meeting during the holidays. Ask staff to share their experiences and seek out ways the process can improve. If you do not have an official process for managing customer complaints, go over the basics with your staff to help prepare them on navigating angry customers successfully.
The most basic part in managing a customer complaint is to remember that most of the time the customer just wants to be heard. Train your staff to prepare to listen by:
Staying calm, use breathing techniques if necessary
Literally stopping what they are doing so they are not distracted
Only then are staff ready to listen to your customer without interruption.
After the customer is finished explaining the problem, staff should reiterate that they want to resolve the problem and acknowledge what they heard by summarizing the problem. After getting a confirmation that the summary of the problem is correct, staff should clearly and slowly explain the steps to take to make it better.
Empower employees to take corrective action on their own when appropriate but to come to a supervisor should the problem warrant more authority. Finally, any good customer complaint system should have a way to capture customer complaints so permanent solutions can be implemented in the future to avoid the same problems recurring.
The holidays can be stressful for everyone but with a little planning, staff can be prepared to managing the crowds successfully.