Yesterday I parked my car in one of those long term airport parking lots. The shuttle driver picked me up and we made our way to the airport. Halfway there, I blurted out, “I forgot my phone in my car.” Before I finished my sentence he was making a U-turn and radioing back to “home base” that he had to come back to the lot. I apologized for forgetting my phone and he said:

You know, it’s my fault. I usually ask people if they have everything and if the car is locked. It’s part of our service, and I didn’t ask you. I take responsibility.

Was it his fault? No. But, the fact that he was willing to enter the moment and become part of the solution, not to mention part of the problem, shaped the entire experience–and the amount of his tip I might add.

Last night, the hotel that I’m staying at mistakenly charged my card. When I went to point this out and get the charge removed, the front desk manager said:

Well, I don’t know how to fix this and I don’t know who does have the authority (silence)

Dave: Well, this is exactly what I wanted to avoid last night when I worked with the night manager

Well I don’t know what to say, I don’t know how to fix it and I will have to see if anyone can (silence)

I explained that I understood that she did not know how to fix the problem, but that the problem needed to be fixed regardless. She kept trying to convince me that this was going to be REALLY hard to do and she didn’t know how to do it.

So what’s the difference here between my two experiences. Simple. The guy at the parking lot solved the issue WITHOUT complaining to me about how the problem was throwing him off and inconveniencing him. He didn’t need to; I already new it had put him out. The second person wanted me to feel the weight of the inconvenience that her staff created. That is not good customer service. I was well aware that reversing the problem would cause extra work for her, but great customer service leaves the customer “out of” the pain of the solution. All the pain of fixing problems should, as much as possible, remain invisible to your customer. Don’t worry, the customer, in most cases, will see and appreciate what you’ve done. You might even get a bigger tip.