The Not-So-Magic Number

Indifference and passing the buck from one department (and phone number) to another leads to frustrated customers. Customer service starts with allowing people to have the right information. One stop, one conversation leading to one solution will make you the one business people want to deal with.

Don’t you love it when you reach your destination? That long, drawn-out journey is over and you finally have arrived. You don’t even look half bad for someone who has run through the airport, forgotten to drink any water, and hasn't eaten anything in seven hours. You get off the plane, and quickly hunt for some mints or gum while you wait for your loved ones to arrive. It’s all smiles and hugs as everyone welcomes you back!

“How was your flight?”

“Great. (There was nothing great about it!)

“We are so glad you are here!”

“Me too!” (Can I sleep now?)

The meet and greet is always a lovely time. You almost forget the cramped quarters and the lady seated in front of you who was using her seat as a Lazy Boy recliner. The sounds of the screaming kids who overpowered your expensive noise-cancelling headphones. And don't forget those unwelcome smells from the guy who forgot to wear deodorant and felt the need to take off his shoes. None of that matters now. All of that unpleasantness is behind you now. You have arrived. 

But wait, there’s one last task to finish off your journey. You reach out to pick up your bag from the luggage belt, and guess what came with the bag? A box of chocolates? A thank you note? Hardly! It’s a hole. A massive hole, right in the middle of your expensive, non-destructible suitcase. You watched a video online before buying this bag, and you saw them drop it from a 10-story building and it survived easily! In the video, your case also survived a sumo wrestler sitting on top of it, but apparently that doesn’t begin to compete with the luggage handling team at this airline. 


Yes! You let out a king-sized one of those, but you keep the real frustration inside. Maybe you whisper an unmentionable word to yourself, but you are too dignified and self-controlled to get outwardly upset. You are amazing (at least you tell yourself that, plus you can’t make a scene in front of your family).


You plaster on a smile, because, of course,you don’t want to be one of those nasty customers who yells at the poor airline person. And you definitely don’t want to be removed by security and end up on the 6:00 news. “Frequent flyer has meltdown post-flight. Causes airport delays. Added to the No Fly List.” Nope! That won’t be you. You have this under control.

You use your sweet voice. You know, the one you save for occasions when you are really upset, but you can’t show it, so you act extra sweet to compensate—that one. You patiently explain to the gate agent about your bag. You even throw in how tough the bag is, and how expensive it was. It must have been through a struggle in the back. You wonder if they thought you might have been a drug dealer or mule, and purposely cut a hole in your bag only to (disappointingly) find three boxes of Christmas chocolate, nutritional yeast, and the laundry from the week that you haven’t gotten a chance to do yet. Disappointing, right? You stay calm, and really, you just want a solution. A bag to travel with, an option to go buy another one, a horse and cart, or just some information on what the next steps should be. 

Instead of any of these things, what do you get? A piece of paper with a number.

“Call the number. They will know more.”

“When will I be able to get a new bag?”

“Call the number.”

“Will I be able to…”

“Call the number.”


Of course, you then entertain yourself with ideas on the drive home. Obviously, this is an all- knowing, all-seeing number! What answers might you get?

Is Donald Trump that orange in real life?

Is there a way to have your body turned into a diamond after you die?

How do they get the caramel inside the Caramilk bar?

“Call the number.”

The prospect is thrilling. As butterflies flutter in your stomach, you slowly dial the digits. As it rings, you can feel the magic building. It’s about to happen. It’s THE NUMBER!

 “Hello. How can I help you?”

“What is…(what should I ask…) the status of my bag?”

“Oh! You will have to call back later. We don’t know anything right now.”

SIGH…So it’s NOT a magic number with a magic solution??

One Stop, One Conversation, One Solution

I hope this story was entertaining in some ways, and made you laugh, but what is really NOT funny is the fact that in today’s world, indifference and passing the buck from one department to another leads to frustrated customers! I could provide suggestions about how to empower your staff and give tips on training. But, in fact, it all starts with allowing people to have the right information. Far too often, we see companies layered in indifference and seemingly afraid to really help. It is the company’s responsibility to empathize and to come up with good solutions for its customers. “Not having the details” is just an excuse. One stop, one conversation leading to one solution will make you the one business people want to deal with. Make it easy for your customers! If you are not able to streamline and make those necessary changes, in the end, the only numbers your customers will be calling are those of your competitors. 

Think about it.

Kevin James Saunders is a trainer at Oculus Training Group, a British Columbia-based corporate training and mystery shopping company offering sales management, reservations, sensitivity, and customer service training programs for a variety of service-based industries throughout Canada, the U.S., and the world. For more information, call 888.OCULUS4 or visit You also can connect with Oculus on Twitter @oculustraining, via e-mail at or visit it on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube.