2 answers

Is customer support at an airline easier or harder than customer support in other industries?

Updated San Francisco, California

I'm thinking about working in customer support, but I hear it's hard dealing with unhappy customers on the phone. Is it the same for airline customer support? Please tell me in what ways it can be harder or easier. This question was posted by a CareerVillage administrator on behalf of the students of CareerVillage. #airline-industry #customer-service #customer-relations #customer-support #customer-satisfaction

2 answers

Kim’s Answer

Updated San Antonio, Texas

Customer Service is always challenging. However, every day you work you will encounter a really nice or interesting person, as well as someone who is a real jerk. It is your choice which one you choose to remember for the rest of the day.

When you work customer service, you ARE the company. The customer cannot actually find the person who caused their problems, so they take it out on you. You will learn certain skills, such as "Active listening." People who are upset want to be heard. So listen first, and then speak. And don't say what you CAN't do, you say what you CAN do. Sometimes you will coordinate things with other employees, or even other airlines, to help get the customer's problems resolved.

I personally would never work someplace where my calls are timed, such as in most call centers. I think it is easier working face to face with customers, because it is easier to pick up on body language, and, for you to use body language, to communicate.

I was an Airport Police Officer, and was frequently called to settle "irate customer" situations. The thing to keep in mind at the airport, is that many people find travelling to be stressful. (In fact, there are a lot of heart attacks associated with travelling!) So people are already edgy before things go wrong. Because we responded so quickly, the airlines employees often did things to provoke the customers, then called us. Some of the ones I remember:

  1. An airplane was fully loaded with customers, ready to go Dallas. Another airplane was supposed to be going to El Paso, but it had a mechanical problem. For logistical reasons, the airline decided to have all the people on the Dallas plane get off that plane, and use it to go to El Paso. AND, they told the passengers that was what they were doing. Not good.

  2. An airplane had a mechanical problem, and the airline had someone driving a replacement part from a city six hours away. They kept telling the passengers the plane would be leaving "in 45 minutes," so every 45 minutes, when the plane was not ready, the passengers kept getting unruly.

  3. An airplane was supposed to land in another city, but because of bad weather, came to our city instead. The union contract the employees were working under prohibited them from offloading the luggage for that flight!

Your job as customer service is to explain things and help the customers to resolve their problems. It's not an easy job, but, can be very rewarding. I think the only thing different about doing it at the airport is the level of stress many people already have. Airports are exciting places, and I really enjoyed working there. I hope you will someday experience that same excitement!

Hope this has helped in some way!

Mary’s Answer

Updated Arlington Heights, Illinois

Good question Allen B.

In my opinion, customer support (customer service) is a skill or skill-set that should not vary by industry. Simply put, there are core competencies that every customer support/service professional should posses and those competencies can be applies across industries.

Some of the core competencies that are essential in the customer support/service field are: patience (a calming presence or demeanor), tact, effective communication skills, analytical thinking, attention to detail, ability to handle ambiguous situations, persuasion skills and tenacity. There are a list of other competencies/skills that customer support/service professionals possess; but, you can see how the aforementioned skills can apply to customer support/service in each and every industry.

There may be a greater level of difficulty when working in a fast-paced industry that requires customer-facing customer support/service; but, the same competencies and skills would be necessary to be successful in such role(s).

Mary recommends the following next steps:

  • There are several articles online regarding the state of customer service in the airline industry. You may want to take a look at a few of the articles and preview some of the blogs relative to this topic and contrast it with articles about customer service in other industries. This may provide you with a better view of the various complexities by industry.