The Heart To Serve

You can't care about your customers unless you care about your customers.

No amount of customer training will make up for an employee who simply does not care. I saw this in action today.

I was flying American Airlines and they have partnered with a charity called "Snowflakes" to fly kids of fallen soldiers and their families to Dallas for some Christmas cheer, entertainment, and love.  These are kids who have lost a parent in battle, and it's Christmas. And here is how the flight attendant at the gate prefaced his announcement that there were snowflake families on board the plane:

"I apologize, but I have to make an announcement, and they are making me read it verbatim. So if you'll just bear with me."

I'm not kidding. And I'm not exaggerating. He apologized for what he was being forced to read. And then he told us about the special children on board our plane.  And without missing a beat, he told them they could board, and walked off.Thank God for one kind old man who stood up and started clapping, or the moment would have disappeared into priority boarding and first class.

I was stunned.  He said the words they had told him to say and began by apologizing for what he was forced to say verbatim. Just like a kid who is being forced to apologize and says, "I'm sorry, but only because they're making me say it."  In that moment he represented American Airlines. He became their brand. And in a moment, he undid the beautiful gesture. He negated its value. His words said, "We're doing this, but not because we want to." How unfair to the brand. How unfair to American Airlines. And how unfair to those children.

Then we get on the plane and pilot makes the same announcement, but with such heartfelt sincerity and appreciation that it sounded like he was actually crying in the cock pit. He gave them the appreciation they deserved, he took his time giving them their moment, and it was beautiful. In that moment, he told the story of the brand. And he meant it. And in that moment he redeemed the story of American Airlines.

Back to the flight attendant.

I don't envy their jobs. They face a lot of crap every day. They have to be the front line for all these problems they didn't cause. They deal with angry people, crazy people, and people who ask the same questions four thousand times. I truly do admire flight attendants and their ability to smile and handle their jobs with grace. I couldn't do it. But this guy does not represent them well. Maybe he had a bad day. Maybe he has no clue how he came across. But if he's like this in other ways, he's making his job a lot harder than it needs to be. Customers are much easier to work with when you care about working with them.

Okay. I'm done.


Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson - called one of North Carolina's funniest women by Our State Magazine. Kelly lifts the spirits of audiences from coast-to-coast using humor, storytelling, and lives of the characters from Prides Hollow - Kelly's make believe small town. This unique approach to motivational speaking allows Kelly to break through communications barriers and connect directly to the audience's imagination.
Her powerful stories and wacky wit will make you laugh, remind you that you matter, show you how to see beyond your obstacles, and teach you how to stand up and stick out in a crowded market.
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  1. Kelly, Kelly, Kelly. You are such an amazing, loving, caring human being – who just happens to also be a fantastic motivational speaker. Loving caring PERSON FIRST – who has earned the right to stand up and tell people what works in the world – and why.  You SEE things that many people would miss. BUT – and here's the important part – while other people might CONSCIOUSLY miss what went on in that scenario – I'll bet that they all picked it up on an unconscious level. They picked it up and while it may not have registered consciously, it affected them in some way. They may have "felt" a little uneasy or awkward or uncomfortable and not even known why. BUT – in that moment they ASSOCIATED that uncomfortable feeling with their American Airlines experience.  Great lesson for us all. Thank you for this one!

  2. Outstanding example of speaking your mind, not your truth. So thankful the pilot shared a Kelly Swanson approach.

  3. I'm so glad your blog had a happy ending with the pilot.  Wow – now that is an ambassador of the brand. Too bad the gate agent was not with it that day.  Thanks for noticing Kelly – noticing how important it is to know your brand, and know the importance of sincerity, concern and love.  

  4. This is a great observation about apologizing before presenting anything Kelly!  I've seen it over and over in the fitness industry when a newbie group fitness instructor gets up in front of a class and apologizes for her "newness" before she even begins.  That puts the whole class on edge and makes them anticipate the worst!  Your post is a real eye-opener on this subject.  And I'm with Marilyn that I'm so glad your story had a happy ending!

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