Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When You Can't Fix the Big Things, Fix the Small Things

Always communicate!

Is there anything more frustrating than a slow-moving airport check-in line? I found myself in one of those the other day, the old-fashioned kind where there are no self-serve kiosks and the whole transaction must be completed in person with an airline staffer and a computer.  I had two colleagues to keep me company but we were all tired, famished, and somewhat cranky.

The line's progress was glacial, there were only two airline employees and each time someone reached the front, it took an inordinate amount of time for them to complete the process.  There was much conferring with supervisors and phoning for assistance.

When it was finally our turn, the employee explained that they were having trouble with their computer system and apologized for the delay.  As the most cynical member of my small band of travelers, I thought this excuse smelled faintly of "the dog ate my homework" but my kinder companions accepted his apology with trust and grace.

But it would have been better to have that information while we were in line.  Periodically, one of the staff members needed to come into the line, explain the situation, offer apologies and go back to his post.  Instead, they were so caught up in trying to fix a big problem that they missed an opportunity to fix a small problem.  No one likes to be inconvenienced but why compound it with a lack of communication?  Yes, you might have to put up with a few grumbles and eyerolls, but by communicating, you are showing your clients that you care about them.

If something is wrong, just tell people.  They'll still be upset but at least they can't accuse you of lack of communication.

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