I recently read an article in Inc. Magazine about United’s CEO Oscar Munoz. In it, he was “quoted” as saying that air travel has become so stressful that by the time you get to your seat on one of his airplanes, you're just pissed at the world. He “added” that no cookie or smile could make passengers feel better.

My thought: how could the CEO of a major corporation be so out of touch? Turns out the piece was written with a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. It wasn’t real. While Mr. Munoz didn’t really say those things, others out there do have similar opinions on customer service, and that’s a shame.

Now, I challenge you to find a businessperson in a position of authority who doesn’t think customer service should be a priority. Getting their people to buy-in to the idea… that’s another story.

In my experience, getting people to provide memorable customer experiences is about empowerment. If the folks interacting directly with the customers are empowered to make some decisions without fear of negative consequences, they will. After all, doing ‘nice’ things for others feels good for both the “do-er” and the “do-ee.”

A group of Delta Airlines gate agents just got the airline to charter a plane to take a group of 5th graders from Oklahoma City to Washington DC after their flight was canceled on another airline. They came up with the idea, got corporate’s approval and made it happen because of Delta's culture which tells them they are in the people business first.

Whatever your business is, get your customer-facing personnel to believe they are in the people business and empower them to treat people like, well, people. Only good things (and more business) can come from that.  

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