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Where's The Love? 
by JoAnna Brandi

I was traveling all last week and I've got to tell you I'm still shaking my head. When I think about all the opportunities companies have to make impressions and how, in some cases, they do so badly, it makes me want to take to the road with a checklist to see how bad service really is. (I do dream someday of making a movie about it - but that's another story.)

Now, I know I won't take out my checklist because I know we get more of what we focus on and I certainly have seen more than enough poor service, but I'm wondering if last week was a fluke or if E.D.S (Empathy Deficiency Syndrome) is becoming rampant again.

It began on a US Air Flight when two (not one but two) flight attendants seemed really put out when they had to reseat me because I'm allergic to cats and many kinds of dogs. They had me seated in a row where there was one of each and I was apparently holding up the plane when I asked to move. A wonderful gentleman in the row in front of me offered to switch, but come on, the kitty was still under the seat, so I had to explain that I was looking for a little bit more distance from the dander and I would be happy to wait while they located a seat a suitable distance away.

With great flourish, many sighs and an admonishment for holding up the plane, an attendant found some kind person in a middle seat who finally agreed to switch. Feeling just a tad embarrassed I moved forward to claim my new seat only to be confronted by one of the flight attendants who was headed to the back of the plane as I was trying to move forward. It was comical. At that point my good nature had dissolved and I stood my ground until she backed up and let me have my new seat.

I spent the entire flight with my eyes closed visualizing the safe arrival of the luggage I didn't intend to check since it was a connecting flight. Since moving things around in the overhead bins was not something the flight attendants wanted to do that day, those of us in zone 3 were told we'd have to check our roll aboard bags before boarding, even though the man in front of me and I counted room for at least six to eight more if the poorly packed bins were re-arranged. I had to stifle the urge to start organizing them since my bag was already in their hands and it wouldn't have done me any good.

I know they have a hard job, and it's getting harder, but this day, this crew just seemed like they could care less for the well being and comfort of the passengers. I know, I know, they are there for my safety.

But where's the love?

At a time like this when customers are watching - carefully - and making decisions based on price AND on how they feel about the experience, can anyone afford to have customers say to themselves, "Never again"?

That's what I said after I dropped my rental car off at Hertz after being in traffic jam caused by an accident and was told I'd have to pay $9 a gallon for gas. (You can read about that in my blog I was so upset, I had to vent.)

I really hate to generalize, but I am beginning to think that many service givers are suffering from a disease I call E.D.S. - Empathy Deficiency Syndrome. Some of the symptoms include apathy, boredom, and an amazing ability to look right at a customer and not see a thing. The other peculiar indication of this syndrome is the inability to use the words "I'm sorry" or practice calming phrases such as "I can understand how that might be upsetting," after you've just shared with them that this is the THIRD time you are telling your story to someone in their company.

E.D.S. shows up in all kinds of businesses. Partially caused by a crummy attitude and lack of caring on the part of the service giver, it is exacerbated by managers who don't take the time or effort to make the customer, and his or her needs, concerns and pain real and meaningful to those delivering the service. E.D.S. can be particularly severe in non-retail organizations where the customers can't be seen at all.

In today's business world, where customer focus and customer loyalty is a critical business strategy it is the manager who is really the connection between the customer and the company.  When a manager understands and communicates the importance, the lifetime value, of the customer to the company, people begin to understand why delivering great service should be something they want to do. It's the responsibility of today's managers to get people excited about interacting with the customer. 

When a manager focuses on the good people can do, and on the good in them, it's easier for the people that face the customer to display empathy and caring.

There is something inherently rewarding about helping to solve someone's problems or ease someone's pain, or making sure they feel good about doing business with you. Most people aren't apathetic to someone they care about. 

How do we get people to care more about the customers?  Get them involved, get them to "walk in their shoes" for a while, get them to think more like them! As customers, their businesses, their goals and their dreams become more "alive" to service givers, their response will be noticeably different.   

Does your company suffer from E.D.S.? Where do you have the opportunity to add more empathy and understanding to the customer interaction? How can you notice a customer struggling with your system, your forms, your processes, your website, your policies? What can you to make sure your team "feels" the customer's pain and reacts appropriately? What can you do to get your team more engaged in helping the customer feel the love?

This week go on an E.D.S hunt and seek to find all the places where you can overcome the apathy and fear that has crept into your business as a result of these trying few years. What can you do to create a more positive, life affirming, appreciative environment and build a business that is great to work for and great to do business with? Ban E.D.S and show 'em some love.


The Author

JoAnna Brandi

JoAnna Brandi is the Publisher of the Customer Care Coach® leadership program. She is the author of three books: "Winning at Customer Retention, 101 Ways to Keep 'em Happy, Keep 'em Loyal, and Keep 'em Coming Back" "Building Customer Loyalty - 21 Essential Elements in ACTION" and "54 Ways to stay Positive in a Changing, Challenging and Sometimes Negative World" JoAnna is an accomplished public speaker and a contributing author to numerous business publications. Her work in customer loyalty has been cited in Fortune Magazine, Sales and Marketing Magazine, The Executive Report on Customer Retention, US Banker, the Retail Advantage, The Kiplinger Letter, The Competitive Advantage and dozens of others.

You can subscribe to her bi-weekly Customer Care Tip for free and find more of her work at and .

Many more articles in The Customer Care Coach and Customer Service in The CEO Refresher Archives
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