Drinking Tonight — Good Time To Write About Customer Service

I travel for my consulting business… and last night I was bored by a flight delay so I live blogged my flight delay via twitter. All tongue in cheek, mind you, until United Airlines made me mad (I really wanted to say p****ed me off). Which set me off into a mini twitter rant.

But instead of getting mad and doing nothing about it, I researched Southwest. And I liked what I saw. So I called them up and told them I was a United Premier and what could they do for me? And they told me they would do a status match, so… I thought about what the difference would be. About the only thing I could come up with is that I would lose the opportunity to get a first class seat… which I get maybe once every 20 flights so no big deal. I also have to fly through Midway airport instead of O’hare. Oh well.

On the plus side, I get to fly on a 737 every flight between Chicago and Dallas. Two free checked bags. Get to change my flight for free (i.e. no change fees) if I need to. If I fly enough flights I can have a companion fly for free. I get to board early with status, similar to United except not. You see, most of a United flight is boarding group 2 or 1, so it is not really a benefit any more.

All of this stuff about travel and airlines is a lesson. It is far too easy to make a good customer upset. If you do anything wrong it can happen. If you do things consistently wrong, so much so that your customers expect it, eventually they wake up to realize there are options. It is extremely important to do things right consistently. Anything you can control and make perfect, you should. Anything you cannot control, you should make as good as possible for your customers. Especially when they don’t complain. Customers who complain can be fixed, those who don’t will just move on.

Filling airplanes? Get more capacity. Maintenance problems? Figure out how to prevent them. Frequent traveler club closed during delays? Stupid problem. Pay the overtime if necessary. People pay good money for this.

Nordstrom has outstanding customer service. They once took a set of tires as a return. They never sold tires. Think about it.

Rarely do I ever intentionally make a customer mad. We have a product business where we always ship in boxes. Other packaging was less than 100% reliable. Customer received wrong item? We ask them to keep what they have, ship them the right item, and refund all of their money. We can do that because we rarely make that mistake. If it does happen we analyze the situation to see what we can do to prevent it from happening again.

Yes I am a spoiled traveler. Anything less than the airline’s best is usually pretty miserable for somebody who travels all the time.