Hero Story - Business


How to Handle Lost Luggage: A Lesson from the Airlines

It's been almost a year since my last business trip. I'm excited as I'm writing this article because I'm about ready to take the first trip since the COVID-19 lockdown.

I reflected on what I love about travel, and even some of what I don't love. Falling into the latter category of what I don't love is checking luggage. I'm not sure if there is a term for this phobia, but I have the fear of airlines losing my luggage. Many of us "road warriors" choose to be "luggage minimalists" and pack everything into one small piece of luggage that fits in the overhead. If the trip is under seven days, I can usually do it.

My memory of the few times my luggage was lost by the airlines includes waiting until I'm the last guy standing at the baggage carousel. Then, realizing my luggage is lost, I head over to the baggage office where I wait behind a bunch of other people who have the same problem. None of us in that office are happy to be there. The anger and hostility toward the airline—and unfortunately toward the person working the counter for the airline—can be felt in the air.


Apparently, those were the old days. My last lost luggage experience was more pleasant. So much so, that even though I was upset about the lost luggage, the way the airline handled was a pleasant surprise. Here's what happened.

Once the plane landed and I turned my cell phone on, there was a text message from the airline informing me that my luggage didn't make my flight and would be on the next flight. The message also asked me to text back the address where I would be staying, and they would deliver the bag within a few hours after the flight landed. They also gave me a number to call with any questions.

While I wasn't happy with losing my luggage, I was happy I didn't have to wait at the baggage claim carousel to find out and then deal with the line. Messaging is apparently the new way to deal with lost luggage. Furthermore, throughout the day I was sent updates from the airline until the luggage finally arrived that day. Of course, they sent me a final message confirming the luggage was delivered.

I realize that sometimes the luggage is really lost. Even the airline might not know where it is. But, most of the time this is their new way of managing the passenger's experience, I like it. Here's what we learned:

1. Be Proactive – When you know there's a problem, let the customer know right away.
2. Apologize – You must always do this!
3. Explain the Resolution – Let the customer know what you're going to do to resolve the problem.
4. Constantly Update – Don't be afraid to give too much information. Customers love information and updates about problems they are waiting to get resolved.
5. Finish Clean – When the problem is finally resolved, send one last message to close out the experience and thank the customer, once again.

Problems will happen in any business. In some cases, customers are happy to come back. Why? It's not just that the problem was resolved. It's the way it was resolved.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXXI, Shep Hyken)

This article was republished with permission and originally appeared at Shep Hyken.


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