Monday, October 10, 2011

I Want Super, Not Visor

"Tell the customers to hold on, I need you to go to gate 28."

That's what I heard come across the walkie-talkie as I stood there in disbelief, across the gate counter, while attempting to board an earlier flight from San Francisco to Charlotte. And then she ran away!

Pauline, the supervisor for US Airways, just ran away. No words, no motions, no acknowledgement. No nothing. She just ran off to gate 28, leaving me to ponder: How was Pauline a supervisor?

Pauline was not a supervisor of superior employees.
Pauline was not a supervisor of superior positive attitude.
Pauline was not a supervisor of superior customer service.
Pauline was not super.
Pauline was only a visor.

I had just facilitated three full-day YES! Attitude trainings earlier that week, so my sense of YES! was at full force. From the moment I walked into SFO, I was greeted with US Airways employees (Nora, Jean, and Pauline) who were full of won't, can't, will not, don't wanna, don't care.

In the YES! course I teach how to start with what CAN be done, not what you can't.

Newsflash - customers don't want to hear about all the ways you can't help them, or your company policies (which, by the way, only tick us off more), or anything else that you are trained to say that ISN'T about being friendly and helpful.

Newsflash - customers want people who understand how to be human and treat them as they would want to be treated. Yes, everything we ever needed to learn about being a good person, a positive person, a helpful person, we gleaned from our mothers and kindergarten.

Newsflash - when a customer asks to speak to a supervisor, they are most likely not happy (when was the last time you asked for a supervisor to praise their employee?). If I'm seeking out a supervisor it's probably because the employee I was working with wasn't too super and I'm hoping you will be superior and super.

What does it take to be a superior supervisor?

1. Focus On The Super. The definition of super is to be very good or pleasant; excellent. I love that the word pleasant is in the definition. So infrequently people realize that friendly trumps nearly anything. Be nice to me and you win. Be helpful with me and you win. Be accommodating instead of combative and YOU WIN. To focus on the super, you have to be excellent in attitude, friendly, service, and communicating.

2. Avoid The Visor. The definition of a visor is a shield or protection of the face and eyes. Most supervisors focus solely on the visor part of their title. They are a shield or protector of their company, NOT the customer. They are the person who follows all policies that are not helpful. They are masterful at telling you can't and won't instead of being 'can do'. Personally, I've never like visors, they aren't a good fashion accessory. And I definitely don't think that a visor is a good leadership accessory.

3. Teach What's Right. Sounds so easy, yet many companies and leaders, struggle to convey and empower their employees to simply do what's right. Our day at SFO started out at a ticket counter where Nora refused to check me into an earlier flight because it was 10:29 and the flight was at 11:05. HOWEVER, their company policy is that it can't be less than thirty minutes to take off. Math may not have been my favorite subject, but I would say I had a good SIX minutes left before the cut-off. Nora didn't care. She didn't care about policy or the customer. Her supervisor struck out. Maybe Nora had not been taught to be nice, to care, or to understand that the company’s policy was thirty minutes, not thirty-six minutes before take off.

What would Nora and Pauline's mothers say about their actions?
What would your mother say about your actions and interactions with your customers? Would she say you are super? Would she say you are a visor?

I'm betting she would say you are super (that's what mothers do), but would your customers?

I'm your Double-Tall, Non-Fat, No-Whip Sales Barista. How may I help you help yourself?

Stephanie Melish, one of the few, hand-selected, Gitomer-Certified Speakers is the ONLY Double-Tall, Non-Fat, No-Whip Sales Barista in the world! Stephanie trains, sells, and speaks to companies and associations all over the country. To book Stephanie for your next event, please visit or contact the friendly folks at Buy Gitomer via email or by calling 704-333-1112.


  1. I love your articles so much, Stephanie. When I get Jeffrey's email to my inbox, I scroll right down to yours! Keep up the good work, super! I want to be a super and not a visor. Wish I had thought of that. Blessings, Amy

  2. I do believe in amazing customer service and being a super not a visor.. great insight. However, for being a positive person and a positive influence and speaker I find your comments above a bit hypocritical. I have to say I feel for Nora and Pauline. I do not work in the airline industry but I do work in customer service and respect the people and the dilemmas they deal with daily. To be completely fair, if it were your actual flight and you showed up 36 minutes before your flight is due to leave.. would you really expect to be able to board early?? I find it a bit rude to your customer service/supervisor airline representatives. Sensitivy and respect should be seen two-fold. We are taught that the customer is always right but sometimes the customer is also demanding.

  3. @ Anonymous - Maybe I was not clear. I was not asking to board early. I was asking them to put me on an earlier flight, which their policy says, I can do (as preferred status) as long as I am there 30 minutes before the flight. I was there 36 minutes before. They refused. Absolutely rudely refused to help me (the customer).

    In my book - not wanting to do something - is never an acceptable reason to turn away a customer seeking help.

  4. I have to agree with Stephanie on this one. What proves the point is how would we all feel if we were in her shoes or any customer's shoes if we were seeking help and the person simply walked away? I have been in this situation before where I was in conversation with someone and mid-sentance, they simply walked away. Without an excuse me or a word. I felt confused and angry that what I was saying and as a person warranted no more repect than that. If you are servicing a customer, and you are called away, it takes but a moment to state that they are important, they will be helped, and that they are appreciated. That is all we seek as consumers. "Treat me fairly! Treat me with respect!" If we do that for our customers, then they declare we win. When they declare we win, we succeed!

  5. Stephanie - You are great! I like your articles a lot. I would like one article a day! Keep up the good work. I, too, look forward to your articles. You always make me think and I look forward to the next article. GOOD JOB!

  6. Absolutely on point. Under promise and over deliver, bring value to every scenario. Great article, Stephanie!


  7. Stephanie, I believe your experience is more the norm than the exception. Aside from the fact that you were completely in the right to expect to get on the earlier flight, the way you were MIStreated was unacceptable. In most organizations, there are so many layers of compliance and indifference, it's as though they gradually forgot that it was about satisfying the customer and not about "doing their job". How few people on the front lines of customer service feel empowered to even make a single decision without approval from on high? I love that you named names- I hope that US Airways sits up & takes notice, but whether they do or not, your column serves as a wake-up call and reminder for all of us, regardless of position or role, to treat others with respect and have a "YES!" attitude. When we realize that life and especially sales is about solving problems, our attitude changes radically. I've experienced the indifference of the ticket counter drone who can't, won't, doesn't care..., but I've also experienced the proactive consideration of front line British Airways employees who met us as we came down the ramp at Heathrow with a van ready to take us across (under actually) the airport to meet our connecting flight because THEY figured out we would not have enough time to make it on our own. (We were flying economy, not 1st or business class.) When I asked them about it, they said they noticed the small gap and decided to act on it. And they would not accept a tip. Guess which airline is my first choice when I fly internationally?

  8. they are more like "stupor-visors"

  9. Thank you all for great dialogue and feedback!

  10. This is such a great article... I just recently discovered your blog and it's very refreshing. Keep up the SUPER work!