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Customer service on the fly Featured

9:58am EDT July 22, 2002
On a recent cross-country trip, a flight attendant was very attentive to my needs. At one point, she flippantly remarked that I was a high maintenance passenger. After I got past my hurt feelings, it occurred to me that maybe she had more insight into her passengers than I had given her credit for. When I pressed for more information, I was surprised to find just how much she could teach me.

She explained that she and her colleagues could identify passenger “types” by the way they handed in their cups and other trash. In other words, was the garbage neatly stacked or did the flight attendant have to clean it up for the passenger?

She went on to identify certain clients by the demands they made regarding pillows, drinks and other amenities. Finally, she explained that the “dead giveaway” was their willingness to chat, sleep or work. She said this was not in their official handbook, but that it came in handy every single day.

As I pondered the insight of my host, I realized a few important things that she could teach me about motivation and understanding who it is with whom we are doing business. These are the three motivational tenets by which I live in my business when it comes to sales and marketing, adapted from Carlson Learning Company’s DiSC® programs.

1. You can’t motivate anybody. Stephen Covey says, “Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.”

So stop trying to take the blame for not being able to motivate your people or not motivating your customers to buy from you. You can only create an environment in which people are motivated.

2. Everyone is motivated. I hear many a manager tell me they are frustrated because one of their charges is “just not motivated.” If Tom sits with his feet up on his desk, then Tom is motivated to sit with his feet up on his desk!

3. Everyone is motivated — but for their own reasons, not yours.

Like the flight attendant, if we can figure out what motivates our internal and external clients, we can adapt to their needs and better understand how they are motivated.

By the way, as I disembarked from the airplane, my new-found guru left me pondering her unique approach to customer service as she added one more little ditty. She said, “If we get to know them, we can give them what they need before they even ask.” What a simple but phenomenally insightful revelation.

Free by fax, “What does your handshake say about you?” This free report is available by faxing your name on your letterhead and the word “HANDSHAKE” to (412) 373-8773.

Certified speaking professional Jeff Tobe speaks and trains with diverse companies and organizations around the world. You can find information about his books, presentations and a free creativity newsletter at his Web site, www.jefftobe.com, or contact him at (800) 875-7106.