What Southwest did.

It seems like every time I travel I come home and have some story about crazy passengers, annoying TSA agents, and just the overall experience of flying the [un]friendly skies. Yes, I am picky, but I also think we’ve lost the service out of customer service… which means the customer is left hanging. As companies fight for market share what many are finding is that service is actually what sets many companies apart. Think Zappos or Nordstroms.

I just came across this story back from May 2015 where Southwest Airlines elevated their service game. After reviewing a few articles about her story, here is a recap of what happened:

A woman is on a Southwest plane flying from Chicago to Columbus finds out her son is in a coma after an accident. The plane turns back to the gate and the flight attendant asks her to get off. At the gate they told her to call her husband. She finds out that her son, who lives in Denver, is in a coma after a head injury. This is what Southwest does:
_Offered her a private waiting area
_Rerouted her luggage
_Allowed her to board first
_Packed a lunch for when she got off the plane in Denver
_Her luggage was delivered to where she was staying in Denver
_She received a call from Southwest asking how her son was doing

Amazing right? Yet, should it be? I wish we did not think that was stellar service. I want that to be the normal type of service that we can expect. How often does this type of tragic thing happen to folks? Often. People travel to sick, hurt, and dying loved ones, but so often we do not know their story. The morale is — how can we raise the bar and make what Southwest did for this woman the norm?

Service, service, service

It is a topic that comes up often at work, but never mind that right now. I want to talk about service in my backyard. In my living room, on the phone, and wherever I might be. We all want it right? When we go into the store we want the person working in the store to not bug us too much, but be extremely helpful when we are ready for their help. We want to know when we call our bank or credit card company that they will help us with their questions, and make us feel good about the choices we have made to be a patron of their company. They make money off us right? So why should we be made to feel like we owe them?

Here are a couple of recent examples — and by recent, I mean in the last week. There is not enough time in my day to even list out all from the past month. Yes, I am a service addict and I tend to never forget how I was treated by companies. Really, if you think about it, service levels leave a permanent, laser-etched mark in your mind about their brand. You never forget a horrible service experience and you rarely forget an amazing one — if you ever have one.

Anyway, on to the examples:

Redbox: Over the weekend we reserved a movie on the Redbox app. When Chris went to pick it up, the machine did not work, so he went to another kiosk and rented from there – but since we weren’t able to pick up the movie at the kiosk we reserved it at, we needed to let them know so they would not charge us and so they could be alerted to the problem. Now, I do not care about the $1.50 I was charged, but I do care about principle. If everyone that reserved a movie at that machine did not contact them, how much are they making on their customers, and how many customers would they frustrate?

Their response to our email? They’ll give us a “credit” for another movie to use in the next 30 days. Sorry, but I actually paid for two movies, not one. So credit my account for the amount I was charged in error for your faulty machine. I rarely use Redbox and most likely I am not going to remember to use my “credit.” Plus, I might not even have the chance to use it in the next 30 days. Their solution is better for them, but not for the customer.

Contractors: Dating back to last May we have contacted over 30 contractors to do work on our house. Out of the 30+, maybe 5 have actually followed through with the appointment, and 2 of the 5 have given us bids. I know it is a booming housing market and they have all the business they can possibly handle, but do they realize how brand damaging it is? Service = following through with appointments, calling customers back, and providing bids so homeowners can make educated decisions. We cannot do any of that without contractors providing a very easy service. If you are one of the 30 you will never have our business – your brand has already been damaged.

Why oh why is it so hard for companies to see that one of the most important parts of how they communicate with their customers is how they serve them? With there being more and more options available from many different companies, if you can move or change companies or providers and find one that actually understands how to take care of customers, then those are the companies that are going to make it. It is all in the little things and in the details. Follow through, be accountable for problems, and fix them is the brand image customers remember.

Has service died?

Frustrated. I work in a job that is one of service to others. I highly respect those companies and individuals that believe in service, and I get highly disappointed by those that do not honor service. I was raised in a way that living by principle matters. I take a strong stand for that principle. That means I might have a harder time letting a situation go if I feel that someone is taken advantage of or being mistreated.

My situation: I purchased a pair of eyeglasses at the outlet location of a local eyeglass store: Reynolds Optical. It is a great deal, a pair of frames and lenses for $150. Due to my crazy blind prescription, I always have to pay $100 to make the lens thinner. $250 is still a great deal. I think they can give these prices because the frames themselves are floor models from other locations. Fine with me – they can be cleaned, and I always check them for nicks or scratches. I was to receive them in two weeks. Two weeks go by and no phone call that they have arrived. We call, and find out they are there waiting. We pick them up and bring them home. The lenses are massive. I have never purchased a pair with such thick lenses.

I immediately think that they did not make them extra thin, and I paid an extra $100 for that. We take them back an hour later, and the guy says oh, I will send them back and they can put new lenses in. We later find out he is the owner’s kid. The guy agreed with us that they should be thinner. We wait 2 weeks, again no phone calls, we finally learn after multiple phone calls that the glasses are waiting. Bring them home and compare and again they look the same as the first round.

Chris takes them back and meets the owner. He tells Chris that the frames that were selected are not good for my prescription and they should never have been sent back. Chris lets him know that the guy never told us that, and that he is the one suggested that we send them back to be fixed. The owner says we do not do refunds, but I want your wife to be happy, and to have me come back in a pick new frames. We do. Same guy is working and he says yes I think that those frames will work. This time it should only take a week to fix. I receive a phone call a few days later that they are almost done and I owe them money. I lose it on the phone with her, telling her what a horrible experience it has been and I am not paying more money. If more money was needed it should have been agreed upon before work was ever done. I immediately call Chris and he calls the owner.

Owner and Chris get into yelling match on the phone. This is odd. Chris is patient, composed, and never yells. Does that tell you what a horrible man the owner is? Owner does not give in and unless I pay more money I will not have any pair of glasses at all. I am beyond angry. Remember, I am all about principle. How are these people even allowed to still be in business? We decide to pay the extra money and pick up the glasses knowing that we can be done with the situation, never go back there again, and share our experience online to protect others from being duped. Maybe the experience has tainted my brain, but I actually think the prescription in this new pair is not right. I’m wearing old glasses again until I can have my normal eye doctor look at them.

I then decide to read reviews on Reynolds online. There are quite a few of them. Merchant Circle, and City Search for a start. Here’s a recap and reasons why this was horrible service in more ways than one — plus I still do not know if I can wear the glasses:

  1. Poor or lack of returned phone calls through the entire ordeal.
  2. No service or help in the glasses selection process.
  3. Clueless about how lenses should show up in frames. Son should never work in optical shop.
  4. Owner gets involved, lies.
  5. Owner yells at customer, demands more money after work was done.
  6. Reynolds loses customer for good.