I traveled several times on business recently, and the customer service ethic seemed to be missing. I was astonished at the general lack of kindness that was exhibited by people who work for companies that depend on making customers feel valued and appreciated.
What has happened to U.S. workers? Do they feel entitled? Does management fail to stress the importance of going out of the way to serve the needs of customers?
In my business, customers are my lifeblood. If we do not treat them with respect and make sure that their experience is top notch, then they will not return and business will suffer. I make sure that my employees clearly understand that, and I also ensure that management practices what it preaches and leads by example.
In government, the Coast Guard has made great strides in customer service. For the most part, marine inspectors are courteous, professional and adhere to the code of “honor the mariner.” This can’t be said for the worst “customer service” offender — the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). As taxpayers, we expect TSA employees to keep us secure and protect us from terrorists and others. I recognize that this is a very tough job and the stakes are high, but I don’t understand why so many TSA employees treat us so harshly during the airport security process. Do they assume that we are all guilty (terrorists) until proven innocent?
Because of the sensitivity of its security mission, and because they have not historically believed that customer service is a part of that mission, I think the TSA has developed a culture where customers are not their first priority. This is part of the reason that it has become so unpleasant to fly.
This is bad for airlines and for tourism. Some of us must travel for business. But what about pleasure travelers who cancel trips because of how unpleasant flying has become? When that happens, it hurts my business and the economy as a whole.
The TSA must reevaluate its mission and begin to elevate the customer service skills of its employees. As citizens and taxpayers, we deserve to be treated with respect.