In the past I’ve written articles about how travel professionals can learn from really good companies and industries. An incident over the past week, however, reminds me of how much we have to learn from companies whose sense of customer satisfaction was apparently developed in a vacuum. On a positive note, because most consumers have to deal frequently with these bungled attempts at customer service, the cosmic bar has been lowered and good customer service is a very welcomed change you can deliver on with surprising ease. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to briefly study some good examples of bad examples:
• Cable companies – certainly cable companies have worked hard to earn the top spots in almost every consumer’s “love to hate” list. The reason? Their near monopolies in respective markets and the absolute size of their organizations make them oblivious to customer pain.
o Lesson: Treat customers like individuals and empathize with their fears and concerns.
• Pharmacies & Doctor’s offices – Every visit is a new experience in masochistic undertakings. Wait a while, then some more, and then some more. ATTN: Doctors and Pharmacists: my time is valuable too. And, please, explain my situation in terms I can understand without the advantage of 8 years of medical school.
o Lesson: Have procedures clients can understand and depend on. Don’t over commit and respect other’s time.
• Airlines – Moooo. Moo. In an effort to squeeze every dollar possible the airlines have made Greyhound look inviting. Thanks Wall Street for ignoring customer comfort and making air rage socially acceptable. From shrinking leg room to added fees and surly flight attendants even Jet Blue finally succumbed to the pressure to match the poor performance standards of the major carriers.
o Lesson: The good customer service threshold is lower than you can imagine. Be an oasis of good customer service and people will take notice.
• Large Software Companies – Don’t even get me started. Companies so rich in resources should be able to make their software easier to use and less buggy. Somehow the high standards once set for producing quality products takes a back seat now to an expectation the next upgrade will cause your systems to crash or no longer work.
o Lesson: care about your products and the quality of your service from the get-go. It’s easier to avoid a problem than it is to solve one of your own creation.
• Online Travel Agencies – Yes, I know you will love this one. Sure, everyone likes a cheap airline ticket. Until a problem arises. Try to get customer service on the line when a volcano in Iceland grounds all the planes in London. Or, call your travel professional.
o Lesson: You not only can compete with the online agencies, they cannot compete with you IF you know how to market your services. Don’t sell travel, help clients buy intelligently.
Richard Earls is the Publisher of Travel Research Online, an online travel industry resource dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of travel agents.