It was a Friday in June. Returning to Niagara Falls from Prince George, British Columbia required 3 legs in the journey and I was gratefully on the final one traveling from Winnipeg to Hamilton, about 2 1/2 hours into the 3-hour flight. I went to the back of the aircraft to speak to the flight attendants which didn’t take too many steps as I was only about 3 rows from the rear. The two ladies who were serving the back of the aircraft were there, along with an attendant who later introduced himself as Bert. Bert was the attendant at the front of the aircraft taking care of the “preferred seating” passengers.
I decided it was time to speak up.
Beginning my conversation with, “I know that there’s not likely anything you can do, as this poor passenger is sick but …”, and I explained to all three of the attendants that the gentleman seated across the aisle from me had been spitting and coughing throughout the entire flight. In fact, I’d seen him spitting into a garbage can at the airport before we boarded. Just my luck, he was seated near me. I heard him ask the attendant for tissues shortly after take-off and he plowed through the handful, coughing and hacking his way through the flight. He had taken the air sickness bag to gather all his tissues and when he ran out of them, he began horking directly into the bag itself. That was when I decided to say something.
I explained the impact on me and why.
I told the attendants all this, adding that I felt bad that the man was obviously ill and probably shouldn’t be flying, but I was less concerned about him than I was about me. I explained that I have rheumatoid arthritis and am on medication that lowers my immune system making me uber susceptible to catching illnesses. I was concerned and said, “I know you can’t really do anything, but I just wanted to mention how unpleasant this flight has been”.
One of the lady attendants said, “I wish you’d told us earlier”. Bert immediately moved to action, saying, “Come with me. There’s a seat upfront you can have”.
Really? That was great news! I didn’t think I’d be allowed to move to that section as I hadn’t paid for that privilege–that’s why I didn’t even ask. I knew that the economy section was completely full so I didn’t think I had any options. I was wrong. Bad on me.
Note to self: don’t assume — ask for what you need. Options you don’t even know about likely exist.
Bert walked me to the front with me grabbing my personal items from my plebiscite seat en route. He placed me in row #1, numero uno, right upfront. When I commented on how FANTASTIC his service was, how I notice these things because I train in customer service and workplace communications, he said that his sister has RA. He understood my concern completely.
Right then, I knew what to do.
When I got home, I reached out to his head office and relayed all the details to the manager, asking that Bert’s actions be noted on his personnel file. I wanted to write to commend Bert on his reaction and swift action to handle the situation with grace and elegance.
So here’s the question …
Who is providing you great service that you’ve never properly thanked or recognized? Maybe it’s a colleague who makes your travel arrangements. Or perhaps it’s the security person at the airport dutifully checking everyone to ensure your safety. It could be a supplier who consistently gets you what you need when you need it. It’s not too late to let them know how much you appreciate their service. It’s never too late. Your comments to the right person can change careers and lives. When you get great service, the best way to say “thanks” is to speak up, and to say it to a person who impacts that service person’s career. YOU can make a difference just as good service makes a positive difference to you.
Great service deserves recognition. Bert certainly earned mine!
Here’s to communication to get better, faster, easier results,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
WORKPLACE COMMUNICATION CONSULTANT
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