The Tribulations of Travel: Whatever Happened to Customer Service? (Part 1)

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My wife, Reka, and I are extremely fortunate to be living the lives we do. We’ve established travel as one of our top priorities and we wholeheartedly embrace it. So, for the sake of this blog series, I fully understand that experiencing frustrations as outlined below is very much a “first-world problem”.

 

On a recent backpacking trip to Italy, we experienced a challenging 36 hours of travel. Though the weather and bird strike were the initial culprits for the delay, the overall industry leadership culture of the airline and Chicago O’Hare was the primary driver of our frustrations.

 

To set the stage, every time I go through any airport security, I know I’m going to get what I call my “massage”. Because I’ve had both my hip and knee replaced, TSA is thrown a curveball: If I go through the metal detector, my knee implant sets off the machine, and if I go through the scanner, my hip sets it off. Basically, it boils down to me getting felt up by an overweight man in a polyester uniform. I accept the fact that the only way I’m allowed to travel is to allow this man to slide his hands up my thigh until he “feels resistance”. I’ve tried several ways to remedy this problem – and nothing’s  worked. TSA Pre allows me to be felt up with my shoes on. They don’t care about a doctor’s note, either. Tell them in advance? Nope. For a long time, I’d stand there, seething with anger while getting felt up.

 

But, I like to travel and I know this security process is going to happen. The only person who cared about it was me, so I’ve have changed the narrative in my head. Now, I’m positive and friendly. I follow their instructions, thank them, and move on. Interestingly, it’s one of the few times I’ve experienced a little Zen thing happening.

 

You may be wondering how this has anything to do with management or leadership. Well, I’ve realized that these types of interactions can become positive influences in other aspects of our lives. I’m a firm believer in addressing issues and approaching things head on. Most often, there’s an alternative or different solution out there—it just takes time and brainpower to identify. Sometimes, though, this isn’t necessarily the case. Sometimes you have to suck it up and comply. I’m amazed I’m even writing these words because I loathe the idea of simply complying; however, apparently I’m getting old enough that the phrase “Choose your battles” matters.

 

The next time you anticipate having to do something you don’t like, but is a required step or component of something you love doing, I’d encourage you to invest energy in trying to change it. How can you reframe the narrative in your head? How can you transform the energy spent on being frustrated about a situation? In these moments, remind yourself about the end goal – to engage in something that brings you complete joy and satisfaction.

 

Next week, we’ll explore the subpar culture and customer discontent within the airline industry as a whole.

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