I was recently waiting for a flight when I overheard a woman loudly complaining to her friend. She was upset about having to pay a fee for checking a suitcase that was two pounds over the 50 pound weight limit.
To me, this person seemed very unreasonable. First, she explained to her friend that she knew in advance that her bag was over the weight limit. This meant she was knowingly violating the policy and was expecting an exception to be made. Second, the myriad of additional complaints she dumped on her friend led me to believe she was probably quite rude to the ticket agent.
Since I couldn't help hearing what this loud woman sitting next to me had to say, I began to wonder. How could someone work with a customer like this?
I thought of three great options.
#1 Make an exception
One option would be to make an exception and waive the fee. I'd make a big show of telling the customer I was waiving the fee for them since the weight was so close. This customer would probably have felt a little special instead of being so irritated.
#2 Give options
Waiving the fee might not be possible due to strict policy guidelines, safety concerns, or the assumption that once 52 pounds is okay customers will start trying to get away with 55. If I couldn't waive the fee I would give her options. Providing a customer with choices, even if the choices aren't terrific, is always a better approach than simply saying no. Telling a customer "No" makes them feel powerless and defensive. Giving a customer options makes them a participant in the outcome.
For example, I might have suggested the customer either remove a couple of items from her suitcase and carry them on the plane or pay the fee and avoid the extra hassle.
#3 Provide a good explanation
Some customers will be more accepting of a policy if they understand there is a good reason behind it. I've heard many an airline employee tell me that heavier bags pose a potential safety hazard to baggage handlers.
I might have explained this to the passenger and told her that we really care about employee safety and the fee was meant to discourage customers from checking heavy bags. I might have further explained that checking a heavier bag was unavoidable for some passengers, which is why the airline still allows bags between 51 and 100 pounds to be checked for a fee.
For all I know, the airline's ticketing agent did all of these things and then some, but the passenger was just an angry jerk. What else could the ticketing agent do in that situation?