International business solutions director at Webhelp, Jasper Klootwijk, explains how personal experience can help us to truly empathise with our own customers.

In travelling we can be exposed to great adventures, we may also experience tiredness due to long days and red-eye flights; this may even lead to forgetfulness…more on this later.

Navigating my way around new places, I often find myself relying on customer services; the taxi marshal directing me to the next car and translating my destination to the driver; the concierge as I venture out for a local meal and even the receptionist as I arrive for my first meeting. Language barriers, a lack of familiarity and therefore feeling outside of my comfort zone can result in my interactions with these people and the resulting experience feeling heightened, exaggerated even.

In case you are offended, the title of this blog refers to me. As I travel at least three days a week, there is plenty of opportunity for me to succumb to tiredness and make ‘interesting’ mistakes.

The first mistake I made recently was in Paris CDG airport where I arrived early. I eased through security and took my time to walk up to the gate. I had even time to open my laptop and get on with some work – at least I would have, if it was in my case. A bit of digging and I soon realise my iPad is also absent!

Total panic washed over me and I was rendered useless for several long seconds before it hit me that I must have left them at security. The act of running back to security with a wild look in your eyes is never very becoming.

Arriving at security a friendly lady immediately remembered me, called someone else and within two minutes my laptop and iPad were returned due to some smart photography that identified me as owner. Not only a great relief, but also a great customer experience.

Yesterday, something very similar occurred when returning to Munich airport. My colleague returned the hire car because I was already quite late for the flight. In the long security lane I suddenly realised my laptop bag was missing once again…

I go through the motions; panic, realisation, wild-eyed running – this time to the rental car desk.

At the car rental they referred me to the depot. At the depot nobody seemed particularly interested in helping me and I was directed to about 200 cars that were being processed for the next day. More running ensued until finally I found the car. It was open but my case seemed to be missing. Then finally a car cleaner acknowledged my despair, looked under the seat and found the case. Not only relief, but also a poor customer service experience.

More or less the same very stupid mistake made by me and the same outcome.

But clearly my experience was completely different. The helpful experience made me feel very positive about the whole airport, while the bad experience will make me question using the car rental company again.

The key learning for me is clearly to take better care of my stuff. Recognising that these situations do happen (and that customers truly value good service in these times of need) and preparing for them, training your people (even in non-client facing functions) is essential for truly delivering a great, holistic customer service

These views are my own and do not reflect that of The Webhelp Group.