Enhancing the customer experience

By Stuart_Selbst
In MSP Coaching
September 3, 2013

Stuart Selbst / Stuart Selbst

customer-experienceOne thing I tell my partners and their teams is to make it easy for the prospect, customer or client to buy from you. And, by that I mean, don’t give them any reason to look someplace else. One of the biggest failures I have seen with MSPs, as well as with all business types, is their inability to provide not just a satisfactory experience but an amazing experience for their customers.

As many of our readers and followers know, Loree and I spend a lot of time traveling in order to work on-site with our partners. Last year, before Loree joined Stuart Selbst Consulting, I flew over 92,000 miles between United Airlines and US Airways. I have always told people that United is the best airline with the most amazing customer service. But, I sometimes fly US Airways due to their many flights coming out of the Phoenix hub. Last week was one of the times we had to fly on US Airways for our site visit in New Jersey with Jewell Computing Solutions. Our flight on US Airways to Newark was fantastic, but the flight home…not so much.

Yesterday was Labor Day and we were flying back to Phoenix from Newark. Our US Airways flight was originally scheduled to leave at 4:55pm, but we got to the airport a bit early and found there was a flight leaving almost 3 hours sooner. Great, we said, we’ll take it. We checked our bags, got through security, grabbed some lunch and made our way to the gate. Once there we found out that the inbound flight from Charlotte has been diverted to Baltimore due to weather. It was only supposed to be about 30 minutes late but that turned into 3 hours. So, I decided to call US Airways to see if they could get us on a United flight to Phoenix, since Newark is a United Airlines hub. Happily they got us on a 5:30pm flight so back out through the security checkpoint we went and over to another terminal to check in. That’s when we found out that US Airways ticketed me and not Loree. On top of that, US Airways spelled her first name incorrectly. Try getting through TSA security with a name that doesn’t match your ID. Finally the ticket agent got it resolved, but she informed us our flight was going to be slightly delayed. That was actually good to hear since we were running behind anyway. She did an amazing job of taking care of us by working with other people on her team.

Back through security we went and over to our gate. Then we learned that the slight delay would turn into an additional 4-hour ordeal. While waiting, I began to wonder where our luggage was. Was it going to be on the US Airways flight to Phoenix or did it get transferred to the United flight? I called US Airways to find out and all I could get out of the “customer service” agent was because we were now on United, they no longer had responsibility for our luggage. When I looked up our luggage tracking number on line, it indicated it was still on the grounded US Airways flight. I informed the US Airways agent this and was told, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you”. Nothing gets under my skin worse than someone won’t put a little effort into doing his or her job.

At this point I walked back to the United gate and asked the gate agent what could be done about our luggage.  She gave me a look that said, “I don’t care what you have to say, I have 8 other flights to get out of here”. Understand that I was not upset yet I was just looking for an answer to what flight our luggage might be on. The gate agent told me, “I can’t help you. I don’t work for US Airways”. I already had this figured out based upon the big United Airlines sign she was standing under, her uniform and tag that all said the same.  I’m pretty observant that way. She then rudely recommended that I go speak to customer service. We walked over to the United Customer Service line, which looked like the line for Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land at Disneyland. Thankfully, they had a Premiere line, but that line had about 10 people in it at that time. I figured, no big deal, I’ll wait a bit, get a drink and relax a bit. Since I had the time I decided to call US Airways again to find out what I needed to do to get my luggage. Again, same crappy level of customer service and I got no answer that was of any use to me.

I returned to the United Customer Service desk and waited in line for about 40 minutes. I politely made it very clear that I was only looking for a little help, maybe a suggestion on what steps I should take to get our bags. Instead I got another face full of attitude and not the least bit of interest in soothing my concerns. Finally, I made an executive decision to wait until we got home to Phoenix to check with both airlines to see where our bags were delivered.

I am sure that you are sick of my rant by now.  But the thing I want you to know, which is the most astounding to me, is that not one of the United or US Airways employees ever apologized to me for the inconvenience.  Each person blamed shifted and pointed to the other airline.  After this experience, I am unsure if I will fly United any longer. I can fly Southwest or Delta just as easily.

The lesson here is that even if you can’t fix something for your customer or don’t have an answer to their question, it costs you nothing to offer your apologies and your empathies.  I don’t care if they are a 1-time customer or a long time client. The customer may not always be right, but they do deserve to be treated with respect and given the best service you can provide. You may not always have a solution, but you should certainly hear them out.

The customer always has a choice to do business with whomever they want. I hope you and your employees are enhancing your customer’s experience with your company.  But, if you need help in this area let us know.  Loree is a seasoned customer service professional with many years’ experience training and leading successful customer service teams.

All the best in success,


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