Whatever Happened to Good Ole Fashioned Customer Service?

A recent travel fiasco has me asking asking yet again…where’s great customer service these days? After what I went through on Monday to get to a client engagement, I’m prompted to remind companies that it is less expensive to build business with your exisiting client base then it is to acquire new customers. Plus, it’s the RIGHT thing to do if you want to keep your clients coming back for more.

So here’s my little travel story that I’m betting a lot of biz travelers will relate too (a little long, but heck…I’ve got to get this out)..

I arrive at the airport on Monday morning early. A full 2 hours before my flight…made good time to the airport, which is not always the case in Atlanta. I get to the check-in area and the nice guy checking my bag informs me that my flight no longer exists. Not a good sign. Instead, he told me I was booked on a flight to my destinatination on the following day. OK – first problem & we haven’t even started. The guy at the curb wasn’t set up to handle my issue, so inside the terminal I went. Oh my god…what a scene. It became really obvious that something was way out of the ordinary.

Turns out that nasty storms the night before shut the airport down. Hundreds of flights were canceled, including mine. So what I encountered when I walked in was competition with hundreds of people bumped from flights the night before.

QUESTION #1: Where was the phone call from either Expedia or my airline?

Non-existent. What’s the point of the personal profile and that contact information they are supposed to use to CALL YOU when something like the weather wreaks havoc on schedules. I’m betting that I am not the only business person who showed up and encountered problems that morning.

QUESTION #2: Who had the bright idea to book me on a flight the day AFTER my original reservation?

I needed to arrive at my destination on the 14th…that’s why I booked my flight that morning. Now maybe the people working at the airlines don’t understand that even in the summer some of us are traveling for business. We aren’t all trying to grab the next flight to our favorite vacation spot. I’m listed as a business traveler, and if you are canceling my flight, a phone call is warranted. Don’t assume that I can fly the next day, because 98% of the time, I can’t!

QUESTION #3: Why is it that only a “handful” of people can work up at the ticketing and assistance counters while far too many representatives are on the floor directing people to some line…often to the wrong one.

Good grief…well meaning people these airline representatives, but the conflicting and inaccurate information was sort of ridiculous. You should put all your available people on those counters to reschedule, reroute and assist people as needed with their travel. Too many ticket terminals sat empty while well meaning representatives were sending us to the wrong lines. Fortunately, I’ve traveled a lot and figured out quickly where I needed to be.

QUESTION #4: Should a business traveler be given priority?

This might be a controversial topic but…. I am certainly not without empathy for the weary travelers I saw Monday morning. Parents and kids alike were wiped out, and I don’t want to suggest that business travelers are more important. They aren’t. The reason I bring this up though is that sometimes my earning a living depends on flying somewhere. If my flight is canceled & you can’t even guarantee me a spot on a subsequent flight that same day when I have to get somewhere and can prove it!…not only is there something wrong with the system but I’m losing business. I’d like to know the process used to determine who could fly and who couldn’t.

QUESTION #5: Why do the rental car companies have this stupid rule that you can’t rent a car and drive it one way?

Please…what is the deal here? OK, security thing maybe. I just say what an inconvenience, especially given the situation at the airport Monday morning. People were looking for alternative means of transportation. But did you know that if you rent a car in Atlanta, you have to bring it back to Atlanta? That’s stupid. Sorry.

Ultimately, I made the quick decision to drive to Mississippi. I couldn’t trust the airline to get me where I needed to be, and I HAD to get to my customer. There was no option – they were counting on me.

There were many customer services issues that day. The only person who really seemed to care about my situation was the guy at the curb. I wish I remembered his name, because he was pretty cool. As I left the airport to head back to my car, he asked if I’d gotten my travel worked out. I told him no. He apologized and was extremely sincere. That’s customer service. Instead of at the curb…this guy needs to be running the place! He gets it.

Customer service – as a general rule – just doesn’t exist anymore. That must change!

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