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If the Name Fits

Denver Customer Service Agent Rufus Lovett offers service with a smile

Author Jennifer Dohm

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JUST PASS THROUGH DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, catch a smile and a greeting from Customer Service Agent Rufus Lovett, and you’ll agree: Not only is his job a perfect fit, but his name is too.

“I suppose there’s a little irony there with my last name,” Lovett says with a laugh. “When people ask me if I like my job, I say, ‘No, I love it!’”

Lovett manages gate activities for departing flights, which is no small task. It encompasses, for example, getting 144 customers and their bags onto a single-aisle aircraft in 35 minutes to ensure an on-time departure; providing a higher level of service and attention to the airline’s elite-level frequent flyers and uniformed military personnel; watching for bags and strollers that need tagging for last-minute gate-checking; processing first-class upgrades and serving customers standing by; taking care of unaccompanied minors; and ensuring the pilots and flight attendants are aware of customers with special needs.

Yet Lovett sees his job as more than just making announcements and boarding passengers. He makes it a priority to offer customers an enjoyable travel experience, and to make sure they know he is grateful for their business. With nearly 400 United and United Express flights a day from Denver, Lovett has his work cut out for him. But he takes it one customer at a time.

“I enjoy people. I enjoy what I do. I find out whatever I can do to make the experience better, and do it,” he says. “A lot can happen when you’re traveling. I never take for granted that I’m a part of a customer’s experience. I feel fortunate to be a part of their memories.”

When interacting with customers, Lovett says, “I always start with a smile, and I use their name, offer a handshake and ask how their day is.” But the key is to genuinely listen to the answer, he adds. “Sincerity goes a long way. My attitude toward service is simple: care, concern and respect. If I approach each customer and every day with those three things, I can’t go wrong.”

Lovett has seen a lot since joining United in the late 1970s. In that time, the airline has grown from a domestic player to the largest airline outside the Soviet Union, and then to a global carrier with a network that spans the globe. Today, getting from point A to point B today is faster and safer than ever. Planes are quieter, cleaner and friendlier to the environment. And travelers’ expectations have evolved: Where service was paramount back then, customers now want service with value, choice and frequent flights.

Still, throughout his 36-year career with United, Lovett has maintained a constantly high level of care, concern and respect. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed: The company has received hundreds of letters from customers singing his praises, and he has been featured in three newspaper articles and two TV news segments.

“Your agent Mr. Lovett is absolutely the best employee we have ever experienced!” wrote one customer. “Denver airport and United are blessed to have him. He was so thorough and friendly to everyone.”

“With each and every passenger,” another wrote, “he would ask them a question, wish them a safe trip or give them a hug. He was funny, graceful and polite. He should be given a promotion!”  

For his part, Lovett finds such accolades “humbling.”

“I’ve loved each and every day I’ve worked here,” he says. “Sure, some days are tough, but I just look at it as a challenge. When you love where you work, you want to see the company and those around you succeed. So I’m just doing my part to help make that happen.”

One Response to “If the Name Fits”

  1. John Hall Says:
    June 8th, 2013 at 7:58 am

    I’ve only met him twice – but I love Rufus! The bright smile as he scans your boarding pass. The genuine handshake. The few kind words he offered- “The world needs more people like you!”. He is the real deal example of how we could all treat every other person we meet.

    That’s why I wrote about my first encounter with Rufus in my 2012 book “Do What You Can! SImple Steps – Extraordinary Results” where I finished his story with the customer service instructions, “Be Like Rufus”.

    Congratulations United and Hemispheres on your profile of this best I’ve seen example of how we all want to be treated.

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