I’m known to take contrarian views, but I don’t really try to be contrarian per se. I’m just not hung up about following the herd.
The herd, whoever they may be, have been Terminal 5 (and BA) bashing for some time now. And for many reasons. It’s a big ambitious project with space for many things to go wrong, and many things have gone wrong. After all, if you build a terminal with more shops than Bluewater, you’re not building a terminal, you’re building a shopping centre.
Instead of complaining, I’d like to tell a story about something that worked well. About someone who worked well. Exceedingly well. So, if you have a few minutes, fasten your seat belt and come with me on a little journey.
I returned from an all-too-brief business trip to San Francisco this morning; came home, showered, changed into fresh clothes, and prepared to leave for church. Yes, church on Saturday. We had some visiting pastors over, there was a special meeting with them, and my wife was already at the church offices, waiting for me.
Keys. Change for paying the cab. Phone. Wallet. Wallet? Wallet!
It was only then I realised that I’d left my wallet behind, on the plane, carefully placed in the drawer, under a newspaper. I wasn’t 100% sure, but that was the percentage play. [I’d already replayed the relevant sequence in my head. Got on plane. Emptied pockets into drawer: keys, change, phone, wallet. Slept. Awoke. Emptied drawer contents into pocket. keys, change, phone… but not wallet. I couldn’t remember picking up the wallet, it must have been hiding in the back of the drawer].
I’d landed just after 11am, a couple of hours earlier. It was now nearing ten past one. I really didn’t want to go through the palaver of cancelling all the cards, not if I had a sliver of a chance to get the wallet back. So off I galumphed on to the web. Tried to find a number that might actually lead to a person at British Airways, without bankrupting me in the process, and on a Saturday afternoon as well. After hearing the same tape at the other end of a series of different numbers, I had a rethink. Time to call a cab and get to the airport pronto, at least I’d be dealing with live human beings.
I didn’t need much, just a minor miracle or three. Or four. Or a lot.
- I needed to get to the airport quickly.
- When I got there, I needed to find someone who really had a heart to serve customers.
- When I found this person, I needed him (or her) to (a) know how to find out which aircraft I came in on and (b) know how to find out where that particular aircraft had got to (or was en route for)
- In fact, I really needed that aircraft to have stayed where it was; I didn’t want it to have been moved or towed away from the gate.
- If cleaners had already got there first, I needed them to have missed my wallet somehow.
- And, to top it all, if I wasn’t asking for enough miracles, I needed to have found a person who was willing to then go to the aircraft, look for my wallet and then bring it back to me.
God was looking out for me. Because I found such a person. Actually on the floor of the terminal, not stuck behind a desk. With a real heart for service. She listened patiently to me, walked with me to a desk, entered a whole bunch of hieroglyphics into a computer. All she was trying to do was to figure out where my flight had come in, which gate I’d disembarked at. But she got nothing. Nada. The information was no longer on the screen, it was now three hours since I’d landed.
So she went and found someone else, told her the story, was advised to try something else, came back to me. Tried that something else, and bingo, she was into the archives, and she now knew that the aircraft I’d been on had come in to gate 32. Then off she went again, to try and check whether the aircraft was still at gate 32. It was.
Then she said to me “Wait here for me, I’m going to go to the aircraft and take a look, see if I can find your wallet.” She warned me that it could take 20-30 minutes, and off she went.
I waited patiently. And expectantly. Twenty-four minutes later there she was, wallet in hand, beaming. It transpired that I hadn’t actually left my wallet in the drawer as I thought. I’d emptied the contents of the drawer on to my seat before transferring them to my pockets, and hadn’t noticed that the wallet had slipped down the side of the seat.
She’d checked the drawer, found it was empty, and decided she would check the seat and its environs, just in case.
Many miracles. None of them would have mattered a jot or tittle unless they’d been made real, made real by a person with a real heart for service. Service with a smile. Going way above and beyond the call of duty to help a customer. Because she felt it was the right thing to do, without any expectation other than a satisfied customer.
Her name? Sarah Wilson. So, Sarah Wilson, I salute you. For reminding me that customer service is not about what firms do. It is what people do. People who care for customers. People like you. [I will be writing to BA about this, I am sure there is room for the odd letter of praise at BA HQ. It’s the least I can do for people like Sarah Wilson].