Complete Story


How to Turn a Cranky Customer Into a Happy One in Seconds

By Linda Larsen

It was one of those travel days that didn't start out particularly well. Facing very
little sleep, and three flights to get to the middle of the country for my next
speaking engagement, I left my house before the sun came up. When I finally got
to the airport, I was running late and desperately trying to find a parking spot…
that wasn’t in the adjacent town.

When I approached the security checkpoint inside the terminal I realized that my
Delta app was not working on my phone. With a deep sigh, I dragged my
suitcase back downstairs to the check-in counter to get a paper ticket. After much
ado, I stumbled my way back upstairs, got through security (after a “random” TSA
check) and made my way to my gate. I boarded the plane and fell into my seat,
clinging to my Starbucks coffee for dear life.

No sooner did I settle in than a flight attendant approached me sporting
a huge smile. I was immediately intrigued. Her smile was…dare I say

Here’s exactly how the conversation went:

Flight attendant: "Hi! Good wonderful morning! Welcome aboard!"
Me: "Oh my gosh. Thank you for that amazing smile!"
Flight attendant: "Thank you for your great attitude!"
Me: "Um no. You get the credit on this one. You inspired this great attitude. I'll
bet you have LOTS of customers with great attitudes "
Flight Attendant: (paused and thought for a moment) "Now that you mention it, I
Me: "I rest my case."

Here’s the moral of the story. I was NOT a happy customer. I was, in fact, the
kind of customer that makes you cringe when you see them heading toward you.
And in seconds, she converted me from someone who could have been quite
challenging to deal with into one who was actually happy and ended up
complimenting her.

She brought a huge, authentic, warm and welcoming smile into our first
interaction. Her warmth, that wonderful smile and the happy tone of her
voice, changed me. For the better.

And who benefited from this encounter?

I did. Clearly.

But who else benefited from this? She did. She went from having to deal with a
difficult, cantankerous, grumpy customer to being able to enjoy a rather happy,
pleasant one. This made her job a lot easier.

And finally, the company, Delta Airlines, benefited from the way she interacted
with me. It was one more check in the column labeled “Why I will always be loyal
to Delta and scream their praises to anyone who will listen.”

And here’s what’s really cool. It cost her NOTHING to do this. Zip. Zero. Nada.
She apparently had just decided that, no matter what, she was going to greet
everyone who came on board as if she was really, really, really happy to see
them. And it worked.

Why not try this? Why not take responsibility for influencing your customers’
moods - for the better. Create the win-win-win for everyone involved.

Tiny investment. HUGE payoff.

Linda Larsen, CSP, CPAE is a Hall of Fame Speaker, best-selling
author and serious lover of doggies. Linda speaks at conferences and
meetings around the world, helping people stay positive,
communicate effectively and make things happen. She can be
reached at or 941-927-4700.

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