Are customers responsible for the service they receive?
Unless you’ve been living in a literal cave for the past few days, you’ve all heard about Steven Slater. He’s the Jet Blue airline attendant who blew his stack when a passenger “allegedly” deliberately hit his head with her oversized bag as he was trying to help her get it into the overhead compartment. When she refused to apologize, he lost his cool, grabbed the microphone, swore over the speaker system, said “I’m done! I won’t take this anymore!” He then grabbed two beers, deployed the emergency chute from the plane, slid down it and was promptly arrested.
The real story is the feelings on both sides
So that’s the nuts and bolts of the story. The fascinating part to me is the ensuing furor from both sides. Many are calling Steven Slater a hero for the working class. He was sick of being treated poorly by customers and finally told the world, or at least that plane full of passengers, how he felt about it all and quit. There have been hundreds of blog posts about it, news stories, Fan Pages on Facebook, and more coverage than I’m sure he ever imagined possible. Many are lauding him for having the guts to speak his mind where most of us are timid in fear of losing our jobs, or being required to “suck it up” by management.
Some have also criticized Slater for his actions. He is in a position that is known for taking a certain amount of abuse from passengers. Passengers are more and more upset everyday by fees and restrictions by airlines, so he should know that some are going to be more ornery than they used to be. You could also say that he is being paid to do a job, therefore, he must do it with professionalism and grace. As long as he chooses to remain employed by Jet Blue, or any employer for that matter, he should perform the required responsibilities and if he is unhappy with that, go find a job somewhere else doing something else.
Customers are EVERYWHERE
So if he did leave, does that mean that the new customers he is serving in his new position would be nicer? No. Customers are the lifeline of any business and, unfortunately, one belligerent customer can sour your whole day. No matter how positive your mindset is and how genuinely you truly try to best serve your customers, there are some folks that you wish you could send to another planet. There will always be those customers that we love to serve, and those that we wish did business somewhere else. Ideally, our level of customer service needs to be excellent, all the time, every time, with every customer, in spite of the customer’s actions.
Here’s my take….
I do believe that there is a certain level of responsibility on the part of the customer that determines the attitudes of staff. Communication is a two way street. If I irritate a staff member to the point of distraction, I can easily see how the level of service I receive would go down. I’d hope that the person would be able to maintain themselves, but if I’m annoying or rude, or in this case actually hit someone with something and didn’t apologize, I’d expect poor treatment. Maybe not to the degree of this incident, but poor treatment would be the appropriate consequence for my actions.
Yes, Steven Slater has a job to do. He is required to do it and ensure the safety of the passengers. He is not required to be a baggage handler, but to assist passengers. I haven’t seen any interviews with other passengers who can back up the statement that she really did hit him on purpose, but I do think that she should have apologized for him being hit, even by accident. By being stubborn and rude, she helped him reach his breaking point.
Customers need to recognize that overall, staff are doing things adequately and generally are not “out to get us.” We need to recognize that every transaction is a two-way street. There is responsibility on both the consumer and the provider to act appropriately for the situation and transaction in order to make it successful and positive. When one side falters, the other will as well. Unfortunately, the few unruly customers are the ones that put service providers on edge and in the mindset that there could always be a potential problem.
I think Steven Slater was appropriate in how he felt, but should not have acted out in the manner in which he did. My recommendation would be to have had someone else handle that passenger and get her settled. Had that not been successful, then she should have been escorted off the plane. He is responsible to provide excellent customer service. He should know that there is a certain level of abuse that will come with the nature of his job. But I don’t believe that he should be treated rudely, injured – even accidentally, and then not be apologized to.
I know, there are thousands of stories where service providers have been rude and have deserved the rude treatment they got from the customer or deservedly lost the business, but what are your thoughts on THIS particular incident? What role does the customer have in the transaction?