It is, or at least should be, the mantra of every business everywhere. Over the past week, I have had experiences that cover all of the bases.
The first involves a flight I took last week to Phoenix. The flight was scheduled to leave at 3:50 pm. I arrived at the gate at 3:00 surrounded by a lot of passengers. Problem was there was no one else. The departure time on the screen changed to 5:00 and everyone was looking at each other wondering what was happening. A gate agent finally arrived soon after and apologized for the delay saying that the F.O. (First Officer) had called in sick and they needed to find a replacement. The assistant pilot, who was there, was being very “customer friendly.” He was engaged in conversation with the travelers, many of whom were growing increasingly impatient. He sympathized with them and said he knew his airline was doing everything they could to get a qualified pilot there ASAP. Then, the departure time on the screen was changed again, this time to 6:40 p.m. Not good, especially for people who would be missing connecting flights. A gate agent supervisor was then summoned and she also apologized profusely. She said they had identified an F.O. but that he was in Louisiana and had to fly to Detroit. She distributed meal vouchers and thanked everyone multiple times for their patience. When the boarding actually began, she gave everyone a voucher for a future flight and thanked us again for our understanding. While there were a few travelers who were still steamed, most were like me. Not thrilled but also aware that the airline knew I wasn’t and tried to mend fences as best they could.
The second involves a call I got from my wife while I was in Phoenix. She told me that cable was down and that she had called for service. The person she talked to was very nice, very apologetic and said he would do everything he could to help solve the problem. After 20 minutes on the phone, none of the suggested fixes had worked and the rep scheduled an on-site service call for the next day. I was home the next day and was down in the basement with my son. I noticed that a power cord was unplugged from an outlet next to our circuit breaker box and I plugged it back in. Guess what? Cable was back on. My son had unplugged it while playing around with his sound-mixing equipment. The customer service person on the phone the day before had assumed the cord was already plugged in, which is certainly understandable. So, I called to cancel the appointment, exactly one hour prior to the scheduled arrival. All I got was a sincere “No problem. Glad you figured it out.”
I saved the best (or worst, depending on your perspective) for last. I have been exploring the possibility of new windows for my house. I arranged for a salesperson to visit the house three weeks ago on a Saturday morning at 9:00. No one showed up at 9:00 and no one called. Around 9:45 I got a call from “Sue” apologizing. She had lost power the night before as a result of strong storms that had moved through the area the night before, was up too late and had slept too long . OK. Valid excuse. I give her and them a second chance and reschedule for this past Saturday. Same time. Again, 9:00 comes and no one arrives. I get a call around 9:10 from Sue. She asks if my house is in Lake Orion, as that is what pops up when she puts my address in. I’m not. I’m actually about 15 minutes south of there. I ask her what time she will arrive and she replies that she just left so probably 30 minutes or so. What? The rescheduled appointment was for 9:00 am and she is just leaving her office, 3o minutes away, at 9:10. Are you kidding? As you might imagine, she and they will not be getting the job.
I came away from all of this with some strong feelings about each of these companies. Regarding the airline, not everyone is perfect. The job when problems arise is to acknowledge the problem, assure the customer(s) that you are doing what you can to solve it, and do what you need to in order to accommodate the inconvenience.
Regarding the cable company. A no brainer. Even though the problem ended up being my fault, they went out of their way to help me fix it before they knew that was the case and were happy to hear that I figured it out myself, even though they already had a technician on the way. They have a customer for life.
The window company is also a no brainer. I don’t think an explanation is necessary. They have more than a lost sale. They have someone who won’t hesitate to share his opinions about how low on the totem pole they place customer service as a priority.
This informal experiment reveals one thing: The success of any business is dependent on placing the wants and needs of its customer at the top of its to-do list.