I believe two things. First, we are entitled to a high degree of customer service every time we interact with a business. Second, most complaints about poor service are born of unreasonably high expectations, ignorance, poor logic, or some combination of the three.
When I worked at the Residence Inn I faced a number of severely irate guests who we’d had to “walk” – that is, offer them a free night’s stay at another hotel because we’d overbooked. They were furious that we couldn’t honor their reservation, even though without asking we were paying for their stay elsewhere. Why not take the free room in peace?
I tried booking a ticket on LimoLiner for my return trip from New York last week. It’s a luxury bus service I’ve never tried before featuring on-board Internet, meals, entertainment, and other amenities. Unfortunately they called and e-mailed eight hours before the trip to announce the bus had broken down and they’d be refunding my ticket. I could find alternate transportation, or I could get a free ride from them on a “replacement vehicle.”
I opted for the free ride, rather than take time out of my stay to call Amtrak. Admittedly I regret that decision, and would have been much happier on the train, even if it took time to arrange. The woman sitting behind me, however, talked on the phone as though she’d been tied to the roof and dragged home in the pouring rain. She’ll never ride LimoLiner again. Me, I’ll give them another try – I’ll just be sure to make alternate arrangements if they cancel another trip on me, which they made it easy to do by notifying me well in advance and automatically refunding my ticket.
There are legitimate customer concerns. Vincent Ferrari’s infamous AOL cancellation recording two years ago got huge attention online (with a splash of NBC fame) by showing how hard it can be to achieve even a simple account cancellation. The infamous Verizon Math call illustrates the need for billing agents to know basic arithmetic. Anybody you ask will have a story about how hard it was to understand the thick accent of a “support specialist” overseas.
Screaming and yelling about routine failures leaves us no ammunition when a genuine problem occurs. If LimoLiner had canceled my trip outright and left me stranded in New York, unable to find an alternate route home (unlikely as that is), how could I have expressed the severity of the problem or my displeasure when screaming over the phone would have instantly lumped me together with the whiners out to score a free lunch?