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RobotWhen was the last time you checked yourself into a flight and checked a piece of luggage at a self-service kiosk at the airport?

Like supermarket self-service checkout stations or ATMs, I find these kiosks helpful. Once they become familiar, they’re easy to navigate and usually end up saving me time.

Last week, I was flying out of the Denver International Airport and checked myself in using one of these kiosks. Because I checked a bag, I needed to wait for an airline representative to verify my ID, affix the luggage tag to my bag, and give me a receipt for my checked bag.

While the flight check-in only took about a minute before the machine issued my boarding pass, the wait for an airline representative to accept my luggage and issue a baggage receipt took much longer.

After checking my email and social media accounts on my BlackBerry to pass the time, I finally walked over to a pair of employees who were managing the line and asked one of them if she could help me to collect my baggage receipt so that I could be on my way.

Without acknowledging me in any meaningful way, the employee walked over to another bank of kiosks where a number of airline employees were clustered serving passengers and said something. A minute later, after finishing up with her current passenger, a female employee made her way down to my kiosk and mechanically said, “Checking a bag?”

I answered “Yes” and she said, “You need to check your bag in here (motioning to the kiosk), before I can accept it.”

I told her that I had already checked the bag in at the kiosk and was simply awaiting my receipt.

She then said, “I don’t see a receipt. Are you sure you checked your bag in?”

About this time, a male employee who was working behind the kiosk to my right handed her a luggage tag and receipt that apparently had printed from his station.

She then robotically asked for my ID, examined my drivers license, and handed me my receipt. Her farewell and gratitude for my business were bundled in the word, “Next?” as she motioned towards the line of passengers awaiting check-in.

Reflecting back on this customer service experience, I would describe it as routine, transactional, process-focused, and uninspiring (it certainly doesn’t inspire loyalty, future spending, or recommendations). And, unfortunately, it happens all the time.

Experiences like this one lead me to the primary question of my work: Why is it that we expect for those who serve us in person or over the phone to be attentive and engaged yet, on most occasions, encounter employees who are aloof and indifferent?

Your thoughts human reader?

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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