A June 2013 report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index found that for the 70,000 Americans it surveyed, the only industries ranking below the airlines for customer service are subscription TV and Internet service providers.  Yet an individual employee in any industry can take personal responsibility to make a lasting favorable impression on a customer.

Allow me to share with you two days in my life as a professional speaker (and traveler).

Day One

How do you lose a piece of carry-on luggage?

Delta did that to me today.

It was gate checked on the commuter flight from Atlanta to Birmingham, then didn’t show up on the ramp when I arrived.

Those of us from the flight missing luggage asked at the American baggage claim office in Birmingham if there was a representative for Delta. (The little area for Delta’s baggage claim office was dark and the door was locked.) The rep for American just became defensive and hostile as he responded while walking away.

Finally the Delta baggage service representative showed up. Now as Jerry Seinfeld says, “Nobody announces ‘I want to work in Baggage Service when I grow up.'” But this employee may have been the exception.


Allan Day has worked for Delta for 27 years, in various positions. He began his day today by first listening empathetically to our plights and quickly communicating that he was on our side.  Allan then exhibited a sense of urgency to resolve the problem. Compared to the reception we received from the American rep, we couldn’t help but feel better knowing that Allan was doing all that he could to locate our lost luggage.

In addition to giving me free frequent flyer points, Allan gave me food vouchers to use while I waited for my found piece to come in on the next flight – even another voucher to use tomorrow night.

“Judging from my experience, what probably happened was that your luggage went back to Atlanta.  I sincerely apologize, but that is the most likely case.  I’ll post a bulletin in my system so that the employees there will be on the lookout for it, retrieve it and send it back.”

Allan then wrote down his name and number and asked me to be sure to give him a call before the next flight from Atlanta arrived.  What he described was exactly what happened.

Checking in with Allan later, he said, “Good news!  I just checked with Atlanta.  Your bag will be here on the 8:40 flight!”

I teach customer service but tonight Allan Day taught me a few lessons. “I just treat the customer the way I know I would want to be treated if it happened to me,” he explained.

(Somehow I get the feeling that if my encounter had instead been with the representative from American, he would have tried to make me feel badly for inconveniencing him and trying to ruin his day.)

If you are ever in the Birmingham airport, stop by Delta Baggage Service, smile and say ‘hi’ to Allan Day!

Day Two

“What would you like to drink, Ted?”


This evening on American flight 4105 from Columbus to Chicago, a flight attendant named Rebecca came down the aisle and addressed each passenger by name.


I have been on over 1,000 flights and I have never seen or heard that before. So when Rebecca came to me and also addressed me by name, I was stunned.  So I asked her, “How do you do that?”

“It’s easy,” Rebecca replied. “I just read the manifest. I can’t believe every flight attendant doesn’t do it!”

In response, I told her that I deliver customer service training and asked if she could send me a “selfie” that I could use in my presentations, so she did.


Along with the photograph, she enclosed this note:

As an update to my story, I wanted to let you know that I continue to receive lots of positive letters from our passengers that rave about my use of their name when addressing them and my attitude! It it what keeps me going.
Thank you for being an uplifting part of my life. You really made my day when I had you on my flight! I LOVE MY JOB!!!!
Best regards,


Even if you work in an industry not generally known for providing outstanding customer service, what ordinary thing could you do to become, like Allan and Rebecca, extraordinary?  (In the process, you may find like Rebecca did that you love your job!)