3 Surefire Ways to Avoid Being a Robotic Gate Agent

barbie-flight-attendant flippedHave you ever felt trapped in a situation made more complicated than it ought to have been simply because of a Policy Nazi? In this article, we’ll discuss how to balance policy with real customer needs.

In the classic Meet The Parents airport scene, a frazzled Greg shows up at the airport boarding gate after an emotional breakup with his fiance. At the lonely gate, he attempts to board the plane, but is told by the by-the-book gate agent that his row has not yet been called. After panning the airport in disbelief, emphasizing that he is the only passenger in the terminal, Greg appeals to board the plane again to no avail. He grudgingly retreats a few steps.

After a long pause, the robotic agent dutifully speaks into the microphone, calling Greg’s row. When Greg steps forward to hand her his ticket, she smiles widely and welcomes him aboard as if it is their first encounter. This scene is obviously tongue-in-cheek, but illustrates an all-too common problem of well-intentioned policies and procedures getting in the way of providing a quality customer experience.

Below are 3 surefire ways to avoid being a robotic gate agent:

1. Understand the “why” behind the process/policy – In the illustration above, the whole point of boarding an airplane by rows is to manage crowds of people and speed up the process. The agent failed to recognize that given the fact that there were no crowds to manage, her adherence to policy actually hindered the process. Understanding “why” helps us make the proper application of policies and procedures.

2. Focus on the customer – It is easy to get so focused on sticking to the script or following a specific procedure that we never stop to think about what the customer really needs. Don’t let your procedure or performance goal get in the way of your true objective – satisfied customers. If you are a small company, this is where you can really differentiate yourself from the big boys who tend to replace thinking with systems and procedures.

3. Remember, customers are people too – Whether you’re in a phone conversation with a client or providing support to someone in an internal department, remember to treat them like a person. Not a call. Not a to-do item. Not an opportunity or a prospect. They are a person. Connect person to person, don’t be sterile.

What situations have you been in where a non-robotic employee made all the difference in your experience?



Photo credit: mauren veras / Foter / CC BY


2 thoughts on “3 Surefire Ways to Avoid Being a Robotic Gate Agent

  1. I have been challenged on this point recently. It is easy, when dealing with many clients, to get into a rut of how to open a conversation or how to walk through a discussion. My friend, James, has challenged me to focus less on standard replies and more on reflecting back on the specific experiences of my clients. It doesn’t require much extra work at all, it simply requires intentional thought.

    • Yes, when we begin to see people as just that, people, it is amazing how that changes the conversation. As a project guy, this is a constant struggle for me, but a struggle well worth it!

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