We All Want to Be Acknowledged (Tip for Sales People)


I had a brutal experience with United Airlines earlier this week.  I was at the Selling Power Sales 2.0 Conference and had meetings later in the day.  I wanted to see how much it would cost to switch flights home. My original flight was around 11:30 a.m.  I called United around 9:30 a.m..  My hope was to get on a later flight with only having to pay the “stand-by” fee.  (I’m not going to go into my thoughts on a stand-by fee.)

The whole crappy experience started with being put on hold for an 1 hour and 1 min. Knowing I HAD to talk to a rep. I put the phone on speaker and laid it on the conference room table during the keynote, while the on hold music played in the background and waited and waited and waited. It was irritating.  Thank god the others at the table with me understood.

The agent finally came on. His name was Tim.  Tim looked at all my options and told me it would be about $215.00 and a $75 dollar change fee to get on the 7:40 p.m. flight.  I was irritated that it would cost that much to change a ticket that only cost me $350.00.

I asked Tim if he could just put me on standby on a later flight and that I’d take my chances.  I told him I’d pay the $75 stand-by fee. Tim said he couldn’t do that. That I had to be at the airport within 2 hours of the flight in order to fly standby.  I told him that the two hour window had already passed because I was on hold so long.  Tim snips, “I didn’t say anything about 2 hours before.”

I blew a gasket.  I dropped a few f-bombs, told Tim it was riduculous that I was on hold for and hour and I am now at United’s mercy, because making my flight was pretty much impossible.  I’m now “stuck” paying $280 bucks to get home.  It was clear by his attitude, Tim could have given a shit.

Frustrated and irritated, I tweeted the entire experience.

It took a day, but United sent me a tweet asking if they could help. I didn’t respond to the tweet.  I then got a call from United the next day.

The person who called me was named Wendy and she got it.  Wendy asked me what she could do. She explained what had happened and why I was on call so long and then she ACKNOWLEDGED the inconvenience it caused me. She was very understanding of my situation and how it must have been very frustrating.  She then took the next step to offer me a flight voucher.

Wendy and I had a pleasant conversation. She allowed me to vent my frustration and responded with empathy. She even responded at one point with; “It would have been upsetting to me had that happened.”  Wendy made me feel heard and understood. She acknowledged my pain.

We’re gonna fuck up with our customers. It’s inevitable. We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to deliver the wrong product. We’re going to miss deadlines. Our company processes will frustrate and even screw over our customers.  Bad things are going to happen. When bad shit happens, the first and most important thing we must do is acknowledge our customers feelings.  When we upset, hurt, frustrate, anger or irritate a customer, nothing good is going to happen until they believe we get it. The customer HAS to believe we understand their situation. Until then, we are spinning our wheels. The best way to demonstrate you understand someones pain is to acknowledge it.

CSR Tim was terrible at acknowledging my frustration and it  pissed me off. I was angry and he made it worse. Wendy was good at it. I still had to pay to get home, but in the end, not as much and I felt that Wendy got it. That was enough for me.

When your customer is upset, before you do anything, before you say anything, acknowledge them.  It will make everything else that much easier to fix.