Delivering Customer Service When Things Go Terribly Wrong

by Barry Moltz on September 24, 2010

Today did not turn out the way I had planned.  It was supposed to be the kick off of college tours with my oldest son.  We were going to Philly to tour a few schools and stay with my old college roommate.  It was suppose to be a “circle of life” day.  What we got instead was a tour of the airport in Chicago and a really cramped regional jet.

It’s easy to offer great customer service when things go as planned.  But how is the customer service when things go from bad to awful?  Here is my frequent flyer report for today:

We took a 4:30 AM limo to the airport to catch a 6:00 AM flight to Philadelphia.  I am a big fan of the first flight out in the morning because it is almost never canceled.  The limo from Smart Cars arrived early.  They are expensive, but I use them because they are always reliable.  The trip to the airport was comfortable except for the moments the driver was checking his Blackberry.  I now know why people get nervous when I use my iPhone while driving.  Grade: a scary A-

At the airport, the 5:00 AM TSA staff was friendly…maybe because it was empty.  We went through the new security scanning system which forces you to spread your feet and cuff your arms over your head.  I have seen the position on my cop shows before.  Not so friendly.  Grade: B+

We boarded the American Airlines regional jet on time and taxied out on the runway…and then we parked.  Fog in Philly closed that airport and grounded us.  I appreciated how the pilot kept us up to date every hour.  When he said he would update us, he did.  Setting expectations and keeping promises is so important in delivering excellent customer service.  The flight attendants served drinks a few times.  After two hours of waiting on the runway, they brought us back to the gate (remembering the 3 hour legal limit) and promptly canceled the flight.  While I wanted to go to Philly, I appreciated the excellent job the pilot did in keeping us up to date and getting us out of the plane as soon as it became evident that we were not flying to Philly today. Grade: A

When it came to deplaning, the ground crew seemed to be baffled.  It was almost like this had never happened to them before.  Since it was a regional jet, the gate checked luggage had to come off of the plane but was mysteriously deposited in two places on the jet bridge.  When I asked the ground crew why, the answer was “I have no idea” (although he had just delivered the bags).

Maybe the reason they had no idea is that they were distracted by personal cell phones.  The picture I snapped above (not showing the person’s face for security and privacy reasons), was an ingenious device that a ground worker had fashioned for himself so he could talk on his personal cell phone and do his job! He had wedged his cell phone between his ear and the sound proofing headset he was wearing. This enabled him to take personal calls and do his job!  How clever!  No wonder the ground crew had no idea what was going on!  Grade: F . I have written many times before that the cell phone can be the greatest boon or bust for customer service.  Use it right or your company can really get burned!

When things go wrong is your company’s  chance to really show outstanding customer service, because this is when it will be the most impactful for your customer.  How does your company deliver?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara Shafran September 24, 2010 at 5:52 pm

From an A to an F. Sounds like a terrible experience all around.

Ethan September 25, 2010 at 2:42 pm

at least it was a fun way to kick start the day

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: