Are You a Fred? A Customer Service Superstar

This photo does NOT represent my "Fred." She represents the other lady.

Mark Sanborn’s book The Fred Factor is all about those people in a business that go above and beyond. The “Freds” of the world (named after Mark’s highly dedicated and hard working mailman). Last week I met a Fred. (Or rather, a Frederica).

I was traveling on business and had a four-leg flight from Atlanta to Bend, OR. The first leg  of my journey was late due to weather and I missed my connecting flight, literally by 5 minutes. Since the flight was late due to weather, the airline would not do anything for me. It wasn’t their fault. The last two legs of my trip were on a different airline, so per the suggestion of the “customer service” rep of the first airline (and I use the term “customer service” lightly) I trekked on over to the adjacent concourse to talk to a quote-unquote “customer service” rep from the other airline. The guy I talked to said that unless the first airline released my second flight to them, he couldn’t do anything. So I trekked back to the first airline in the other concourse to see if they would do that (did I mention I had to take a tram between these two concourses).

I spoke to a different “customer service” lady. This one seemed like she might be nicer than the first. While she was “nice,” she was totally unmoved by my plight. I told her I had to be in Bend that afternoon for a job (I was originally scheduled to arrive 1:30) and the only other flights weren’t going to get me in until around 8 pm! She just kept giving me the company line, “It’s not our fault for the delay, so unfortunately I can’t book you on another flight and we can’t release your second leg to the other airline.” Blah! Blah! Blah!

At this moment I kept thinking of that scene in “Meet the Parents” where Ben Stiller is dealing with the uncaring, unmotivated flight attendant with the painted -n smile. Yeah. You know the scene. I was getting very frustrated. I would soon have to call my client and tell him I was going to miss a whole day. I called my wife instead and she did what she does so well. Kept me calm, cool and collected. I whipped out a quick prayer (couldn’t hurt, right) then headed BACK to the other concourse again. The guy I spoke to wasn’t there. Instead, I was blessed to find my Frederica. She was a nice woman who looked like Diane Keaton from “Father of the Bride.” I told her my plight and she said, “Stay right here and let me see what I can do.”

After about a half hour of negotiating with the other airline on my behalf, she got me on a flight on her airline that would get me into Bend at 3:15 (only 90 minutes later than my original arrival time). Imagine that. Someone actually WAS able to switch the flights for me.

In today’s competitive environment, I’m still amazed when companies offer crappy customer service. Yes, I know it wasn’t the airline’s fault they were late, but obviously, it WAS possible to help me. It just took someone who cared enough to make the arrangements.

In your business, are you a Fred? Do you care about your clients? Are you willing to help them in any way possible, even if the predicament is not your fault? Or are you one of those people that love to dish out the party line?

I would give anything for Zappos to start an airline!

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2 Responses to “Are You a Fred? A Customer Service Superstar”

  1. The airline industry is the worst and notorious when it comes to consistency. Like you, I have met the unfriendliest people who obviously hate their job and are terrible at customer service and I’ve met the Fred’s too. I once got upgraded to First Class on my return from Seattle just because there was a note in my record that I worked in the travel industry at the time. I hadn’t even asked. There are so many things that are left to the pure discretion of the rep behind the counter. Smiling back ALOT helps some of the time. :) I’m definitely a Fred. It’s important that clients can hear you smile even on the phone and I’ve had clients tell me they hired me without meeting me simply because I was so friendly and helpful on the phone. I love that!

    I hope your shoot/work went mostly as planned in Bend!

    • The work in Bend went wonderful. Thanks.

      And you’re totally right about smiling. Just showing you care goes a long way. Except for my Frederica, no one seemed to care.

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