A traveler was delayed on his arrival to Charlotte and missed his connecting flight to Chicago.  He was desperately trying to catch the next flight in order for him to arrive on time for an important business meeting, but the flight he wanted was full.

A friend of mine had a seat on that flight — and a four hour connection in Chicago.  He offered to take a later flight and allow this man to reach his destination, while still having plenty of time to make his own connection. “Sure,” said American. “That will cost you each $200.”

Obviously the switch did not happen and no one won in a situation that would have cost American n.o.t.h.i.n.g.  They could have garnered lots of good will by embracing the spirit of cooperation that my friend exhibited.  He was willing to give a little, and if American had done the same, the man would have been happy and all would have been well.  No revenue lost; client satisfaction gained.

Does your organization have rules like this in place that may have some basis, but are not grounded in common sense?  Are you losing customers, employee morale or referrals because you make others mad with your bureaucracy or rigidity?  Have you defined the company’s core values that would prevent such a situation and allow employees to override rules under extenuating circumstances like this?

The next time a customer wants to help you out and make you look good, I hope you are smart enough to let him.

— beth triplett

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