April 02, 2007
The next time you need a ticket counter person to give you a break, give her a break up front.
Smile at her.
Think of her as the person who will get you on the flight, get you a better seat or get you back home in time for your daughter's recital. Don't think of her as the obstacle or the person at the airline responsible for your situtation.
I was talking to a travel industry executive in Oklahoma City last week and he confirmed this theory. Friendly travelers get better service than belligerent ones. The airline employees on the ground do not care that you are a frequent traveler. That is a commodity these days. No one behind the counter cares how important you are, they care about being treated with respect.
When I was writing The Likeability Factor, I discovered studies that suggested that a smiling and likeable patient gets more time with a busy doctor and is rescheduled quicker. One study on high school students in Southern California found that the number of times a girl smiled was more of a driver of her popularity than her physical attractiveness. A 2002 study on customer service found that if you are likeable and competent, you have a three fold increase in the likelihood of getting satisfactory service. Smiles are the key.
Try this out the next time you need help on the road. Take a deep breath, think a positive thought and smile at your new travel partner at the counter. She's likely to reciprocate by going the extra mile(s) for you. Once you find it works during travel, try it out on your family and friends when you get home.