I was flying out of town on a business trip as the deadline for this article approached, and I had not yet decided on a topic to write about. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it), the subject for this article screamed out at me all day…the importance of good customer service. The following is a true story.
My first flight out of Roanoke was delayed due to “mechanical reasons” (the flight crew couldn’t get the door shut.) I arrived at my destination 10 minutes before my connecting flight to find the boarding door shut, no agent, and the plane was still at the gate. The airline wouldn’t let me on the flight (“Sir, you will need to go to customer service.”) At customer service, I was told, “We took care of you. You are already re-booked!”
When I arrived at my final destination three hours late, the rental car company considered me a “no-show” (“Did you call us to say you would be late?”). The rental company would no longer honor my reservation rate and forced me to pay for an upgrade (“The upgrade is $60/day, but we will give you a good deal for only $20 more per day!”)
Finally at the hotel, I arrived in my 2nd floor room and could hear loud music coming up through the floor. I called the front desk to learn there was a reception going on directly below me, but the staff would get the music turned down. After a 15-minute wait with no results, I went to the front desk asking again for either the music to be turned down or a new room. They said it was “getting turned down”. After 15 more minutes, I had to demand a new room.
It was a perfect trio of poor customer service (airline, rental car, and hotel). Not only did I not receive a single apology, but all three companies pretended they were going above and beyond to take care of me (rebooking, cheaper car upgrade, new hotel room). I will no longer use two of these companies because this was not the first time I had poor customer service from them.
Anyone who works in a service industry understands the importance of good customer service. So why is it so rare?
Stuff happens. Sooner or later, an unforeseen circumstance or poor planning will result in sub-par service for your customer. How will you react?
It is not enough to simply fix the issue. Your customer has already had a poor experience. Good customer service should compensate customers for your mistake, and let them know you are sorry for any inconvenience. Did you deliver a cold meal? Fix the problem and offer a free dessert. Did your customer have to wait past the appointment time? Take 10% off the bill. And don’t wait for them to ask. Just do it.
Here’s what should have happened on my trip. The airline could have said “Sorry we did not meet our obligation. Here is a meal voucher while you wait.” The car rental company could have said, “We are sorry you were delayed. Please accept this upgrade at no extra cost.” And the hotel could have said, “Sorry you had to change rooms. Here is a free meal voucher in our restaurant.” Those three little tokens of goodwill would have made all the difference in the world, and kept my future business.
Many years ago, my wife and I went to a restaurant with three other couples. Due to problems in the kitchen, our meals came out extremely late. The manager came out and informed us our entire visit was “on the house”. Needless to say, that restaurant kept our business and we recommended it to dozens of people.
When stuff happens, don’t simply fix the problem. Apologize and compensate your customers for their inconvenience. It is much better for business to create and keep loyal, happy customers than to find new ones.