How Poor Customer Service Can Provide Valuable Business Insight

The Marketing GirlBusiness, Customer ServiceLeave a Comment

In recent months, I’ve started to notice how many of my personal, real-life experiences provide valuable business insight and lessons. As I become more involved with clients and move further into the marketing world, my brain has become wired to take note of what I like about my interactions as a customer – and often, what I would do differently.

A failure by airport services to provide a positive experience served as a good business lesson. As you may have read in my recent Westjet for the Win post, I had an amazing experience travelling with my 10 month old son. My now-13 month old son is a bit different of a story, especially when going through an airport under major renovations and an upcoming 16-hour international flight.

Communicate With Your Customers
We were flying from Calgary to Australia on the red eye. We arrived to the airport with plenty of time to spare. We went to the ticket counter, picked up our boarding passes and checked our bags. After passing through security, I noticed the layout of the terminal was significantly reduced in size due to the renovations. The terminal usually has a selection of restaurants, a number of shops and bathrooms every 500 feet. Now there was one restaurant, a single coffee shop and one bathroom.

Lessons:
Communicate and give your customers notice – post signs or leave messages up letting them know of any changes they may experience while working with you or frequenting your business. In this scenario, if I had known when we got our boarding passes or passed through security that there would be one bathroom and restaurant in our terminal, I would have ate at one at a restaurant or grabbed snacks at a shop BEFORE going through security.

A few considerations:

  • Keep your customer’s needs in mind – do they need quick access to certain products, services or amenities that you have overlooked?
  • Remove ambiguity – don’t leave your customers wondering things like what the renovations mean, or if businesses are closing or moving. Letting them know where to find the business or when they are expected to re-open is a huge help to the confused customer.

While I was in Australia, I was certain to give my clients notice and reminders at least six weeks in advance and an additional reminder two weeks before I left, so they were aware of my upcoming absence. This gave them enough time to reach out with any questions or concerns before I left. I also gave a firm date of my return so they knew when to expect me back.

Meet Your Customers’ Expectations
As we had over three hours to kill in the airport, we decided to grab dinner in the only sit-down restaurant in the terminal. It was chaotic but we found a table and flagged down a server to grab menus and a high chair.

She responded by informing us that they were a bar so they did not have high chairs then suggested my son sit on a bar stool. Needless to say, we were taken aback there were no highs chairs to be found in the only sit-down restaurant currently open. And I’m not sure how many 13 month olds you know, but needless to say, they are not coordinated or still enough to sit safely on a bar stool. We ended up packing up and leaving to grab food at the only coffee shop. It wasn’t ideal but it filled our tummies (and there wasn’t a bar stool in sight).

Finally, I went to change my son’s diaper before boarding only to discover that there was no baby change table in the terminal. I searched the washroom and asked a number of staff. I was pointed to the wheelchair washroom…I ended up changing him on the tiny corner of the countertop in the women’s bathroom. Given the number of families that fly through Calgary, not having a place for anyone traveling with infants to eat or even change their baby, is not acceptable.

Lesson:
If you are planning any big changes, ensure you have set up perimeters so there is as little disruption to your customers as possible. Think of the services you usually provide and what your customers have come to expect from you. What can you do to ensure those same services are met throughout the transition process? If there is a change to your services such as switching providers, perhaps set up a recourse action or a temporary service provider to bridge the gap. If you are internally making changes, it is not your customer’s role to weather the pains with you – they are paying you to provide a service and you need to deliver on it or provide comparable services in the meantime.

Fortunately once we made it onto the plane, we reached our destination without any additional hurdles, however that rough start to the trip could have been avoided with better communication and planning. How do you communicate with your own customers and plan ahead to ensure smooth sailing (or in my case, flying)? If we can help make it easier for you and them, contact us!

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