Starting in 2003, I had the privilege of traveling regularly to China. Prior to this, I would have said I was tuned into customer/client service, and I would have considered myself relatively easy to please. My experience in China, though, opened my eyes to a new level of customer service. For example, many times, I was the only foreigner on domestic flights in China. The attention and care paid to me, even by non-English-speaking flight attendants, was over the top. Even though I may not have fully understood what was being said, I was always treated with respect and graciousness.
At the close of one trip, after receiving phenomenal treatment everywhere I went in China, I boarded my international flight to return home. I was sitting in an aisle seat across from the bulkhead, where families with children often sit because there’s more room. There was an elderly Chinese gentleman in the bulkhead seat, and he was holding an infant. His bags were on the floor, not in the overhead compartment. (If you’re a frequent flier, you know that bags, etc. must be stored in the overhead compartments during takeoff and landing.)
The flight attendant came by and, in a cranky voice, told the man to move his bags to the overhead compartment. She left, but he was preoccupied with the baby and did not move his bags. The flight attendant came back two more times and barked out her orders. Finally, she moved the bags herself. During the flight, as I reflected on the situation, I thought, “I bet he doesn’t understand English; maybe this is his first airplane ride.” I was embarrassed by the poor customer service he received, especially when I contrasted his experience with the thoughtful service I was given in China. It made me ask myself these questions: Do I ever speak a “language” my clients do not understand? Am I focused on my clients’ comforts or making my job easier? How would I like to be treated if I were my client?