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A Call for Civility Peggy Carlaw

civility A Call for CivilityThe LA Times called this morn­ing to get my thoughts on how cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing might have helped Steven Slater, the 38 year-old Jet Blue flight atten­dant who went berserk yes­ter­day after allegedly being ver­bally and phys­i­cally abused by a passenger.

Accord­ing to the reports, a woman pas­sen­ger had some choice words for Slater sev­eral times dur­ing the flight. Once the flight landed in New York, she got into an alter­ca­tion with another pas­sen­ger over some lug­gage. When Slater tried to inter­vene, she bashed the her lug­gage into Slater's head. Slater, hav­ing had enough, grabbed the inter­com, cursed out the plane, grabbed a cou­ple of beers, popped the emer­gency exit, and headed down the slide to go home for the day.

Now what was I going to say to the reporter from the LA Times? I'm sure Jet­Blue trained Slater trained in appro­pri­ate cus­tomer ser­vice tech­niques for deal­ing with angry passengers—techniques like stay­ing calm, not rais­ing your voice, focus­ing on a solu­tion, etc. We teach all those tech­niques and they can be quite effec­tive in sit­u­a­tions where cus­tomers are angry or upset. But how was that sup­posed to help in this case? I in no way con­done Slater's behav­ior, but it's hard to stay calm when you've been bashed in the head.

I won­der what was wrong with the woman. Had she just lost her job? Was she ill? Did her med­ica­tion stop work­ing? Or was she just act­ing like out like oth­ers she's seen in car­toons, sit­coms, video games, and movies and heard on talk radio? Did Slater do some­thing ini­tially to annoy her? Did he aggra­vate the sit­u­a­tion? We don't know.

Appar­ently, Slater has turned into some­what of a hero of cus­tomer ser­vice work­ers, many of whom are sick and tired of deal­ing with annoy­ing and abu­sive cus­tomers. I travel a lot and I know it can be tir­ing, frus­trat­ing, and annoy­ing. But noth­ing can be so bad that it per­mits one per­son to act like that toward another. So cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing? That's not enough to tame this grow­ing trend of dis­re­spect and abuse. It's time to bring back civil­ity. A few stress reduc­tion lessons couldn't hurt either!

Peggy Car­law is the founder of Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems, a lead­ing train­ing com­pany spe­cial­iz­ing in improv­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions between front-line employ­ees and cus­tomers. Peggy is co-author of sev­eral books pub­lished by McGraw-Hill, includ­ing Man­ag­ing and Moti­vat­ing Con­tact Cen­ter Employ­ees and The Big Book of Cus­tomer Ser­vice Train­ing Games.
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Peggy Carlaw
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