That’s the message too often we get when we interact with most organizations.   

We feel like a number.  Not a person.  

It’s not a good feeling.

This week we are exploring tools to build relationships. Today, we turn to the professional.

Chip and Dan Heath share a story in The Power of Moments about analysts at the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) who studied customer service calls and the ratings people provided afterward.  

The analysts found that only half of customer ratings were attributable to the particular call they had just experienced.  The other half reflected the way they had been treated previously – i.e. if a person made five calls to get an issue resolved, it didn’t matter if the 5th was handled brilliantly.

The term they used to describe this experience is “baggage.”  [Note from Drew: Love this term!}

Next, they decided to run an experiment.  In half of the calls, they directed agents to ignore the “baggage.”  In the other half, agents addressed it directly and apologized.  

Customers rated their quality of experience with reps who addressed the “baggage” almost twice as high.  And, check this: the caller’s perception of the effort they had to invest to resolve the problem plummeted by 84%.

Baggage handling is responsive.  It demonstrates understanding and validation of the frustrating past experience.


Reflection:  Are there ways to apply the lessons learned by the CEB regarding “baggage handling” to my organization?

Action:  Put into action the ideas from the reflection above.

What did you think of this post?


  1. Spencer Siino Reply

    I can’t emphasize enough the long-term competitive advantage our company has enjoyed simply from a daily attitude toward customer service, including the way we handle phone calls. We have no automated phone systems because an associate, fully capable of handling almost any issue, answers the phone (the goal is on the first ring). Further, if the customer is angry or frustrated, even cursing, our people understand that it is not personal and their goal is to respectfully and with empathy allow that person to vent, never argue and simply try to redirect to how to solve the problem.

    • So cool. Letting each client know we value them and going the extra mile to take care of them is a HUGE success multiplier.

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