What Makes Extraordinary Customer Service?


Recently a colleague and I were flying from Des Moines to Nashville through Chicago.

We were slightly delayed in Des Moines and told there were major thunder storms

circling Chicago. In about a half hour (but with plenty of time to make our Nashville

connection) we took off. About a half hour out our pilot explained that severe weather

was still in Chicago. We apparently had two choices, being diverted to Milwaukee or

waiting until the storms cleared and approaching O’Hare from the North.

When I looked out the window and saw we were over Lake Michigan I realized that

option one wasn’t going to happen, and we were still heading east, which told me that

option two wasn’t in the cards either.

Ultimately we were diverted to Grand Rapids. What this means is that Chicago was

closed and so we were asked to sit on the tarmac in Grand Rapids and wait. Not only that, since Grand Rapids was not our airport of origin, we were “unwanted” house guests with no


No worries – I’m a Platinum flyer with American so I called the Platinum hot line and

received a new connection to Nashville.

After about an hour on the tarmac we were taken to a walk-up gate and unloaded. Once we got into the terminal we discovered that there were two Grand Rapids -to-Chicago flights also

stranded. We stood near the desk, thinking at this time we were solid with a new flight,

and watched two incredible agents deftly handle the upset passengers. These two

women were unflappable but also warm, friendly and eager to help everyone.

By the time the two Grand Rapids planes were sent away it was time for our diverted,

unwelcome flight to board. Problem was, it was too late for us to make our new

connection. So we finally got in line and waited for the agent.

When we got to the agent (Cindy) she continued to be amazing. She could not find us

another flight on our original airline so she had to rebook us on another airline the next day.

Sensitive to the fact that frequent flyer numbers are an important part of a business

traveler’s life (ever notice how many people who don’t have frequent flyer numbers get

the full search at TSA?) she took our numbers for this other airline.

After our flight was booked she said, “Now, we’ve got to find you a hotel!” and proceeded to

get on the phone with local hotels. All of her “usual” hotels were booked so she called a

hotel with whom she had no professional contact. She not only got us a room, she

demanded that “her customers” receive the airline rate (we got a room in a nice hotel for $59).

She then walked with us down to the entrance of the airport. By this time the storm had

hit Grand Rapids and it was pouring. The hotel bus was not allowed, by airport rules, to

come near the building (which meant under covering). It was out in the open. Cindy

calls the hotel and asks them to have their bus pick us up next to the building. They told

her about the rule and she walked out in the torrential downpour to find an airport police

officer who and had him call the hotel to approve our pickup. We stood with our mouths open just watching her serve “her” customer. Stunned, we now go to the hotel.

When we arrived at the hotel the desk clerk asked us, “Are you the airline people?” We

said “yes” and the clerk said, “Well, Cindy just called again and your seats are set for

tomorrow and your frequent flyer numbers are in the system.” Come to find out Cindy

had called several times between the time we left the airport and arrived at the hotel

(maybe 15 minutes drive) to make sure we got the message about our seats and FF


I have nearly 1.5 million miles with this airline and almost another million on another. My

colleague frequently traveled internationally. Neither of us had experienced this kind of

incredible service and support from anybody associated with an airline. Cindy definitely

understood “going the extra mile” customer service.


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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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