Customer Service Failures

As you read this, your company is experiencing a Customer Service Failure that neither you nor the person handling the problem is even aware of.

The hard part about maintaining customer satisfaction is that most representatives don’t know when they are facing a customer that is a victim of your failure.

Customer Service failures are sometimes hard to spot.

My example is my rental car company. I rent from one of the biggies (ok, it’s Avis) and have for years. I am very loyal – though it’s only because my other traveler friends say their rental car companies are just as bad – so why switch? That is a poor testimonial to customer service right there.

My story though is the typical car rental experience. I am one of those people that is supposed to land at the airport and go straight to my car, show my driver’s license at the gate and off I go. To know which car I should take, I get an email (maybe 10% of the time) with its location or I check a big display that has my name and the location of my car (25% of the time). The other two-thirds of the time the big board tells me I need to go to the service counter for preferred customers and – get this – wait in line to speak to someone that thinks that my waiting in line is a normal thing.

What a shame. The fact that I am in that line is an indication of an EXTREME Customer Service Failure. Every benefit I have of being an elite customer has already been frittered away and I have every right to expect someone that knows that and gives a darn. All I want is someone to say, “Good morning Mr. Stimson. I am sorry you had to wait in line today. I will get you on the road as quickly as I can.” It would be better if they just fixed the problem of having a car ready before I got there – but hey, if you can’t fix your operation, you really should focus on how you handle service failures. Just saying!

So Avis, if you are reading – teach your counter folks how important they are. I meet some of the most petulant, unpleasant people at your Preferred desks. In your defense, I also meet some wonderfully helpful folks including managers that have handed me the keys to luxury cars and said, “Just take this, sorry for the inconvenience.”

For the rest of you, continue to focus on improving operations to reduce mistakes, but you also need to pay attention to how your team recognizes and responds to customer service failures. Don’t make excuses. Don’t explain how it happened (unless the customer asks). And, while customers expect things to fail from time to time, they shouldn’t be responsible for reminding themselves to be tolerant. Sincere understanding and a polite apology from you will go a long, long way to mend the failure and earn another chance.