Airlines get a bad rap, often deservedly so. According to USA Today, in 2018, two of the twenty most hated companies in America were airlines, with United coming in at number 19 and Spirit, not surprisingly, getting the number 9 slot. I think this comes from many customer unfriendly policies airlines implement, ranging anywhere from non-refundable tickets, excess baggage charges, Basic Economy tickets and charging for everything from Wi-Fi to blankets and even sodas while onboard. I’ve read post after post of Facebook friends who have been treated horribly by airlines. But here’s a question – if airlines are willing to treat celebrities, sports figures and national icons horribly, what makes you think you’re any different? Please know that I’m writing this knowing that these celebrities are complaining about #firstworldproblems.
The travel industry is all about customer service. As a business, you provide a service to your customers. That may be transportation on an airplane, train, bus or car. It could also be a place to stay like a hotel room, villa, AirBnB or campsite. You may be responsible for feeding those visiting your town at a restaurant. Lastly, you may be providing an essential need or travel service like acting as a guide or working at an entertainment facility, historic place or a park. All these jobs are front line service positions that directly impact how much a traveler enjoys his or her trip, regardless if it’s for business or pleasure.
Back in the old days, it was easy to measure how well your customer service was doing. If the service you provided was done well, people would return. If you did really good, they might even tell their friends and you would then have more customers. If your service was bad, the customers wouldn’t come back. If you were really bad, you could be sure they would tell everyone they knew and eventually you wouldn’t have any business left.
I read a post in a Facebook travel group that made me think about what we expect an experience to be like when we travel. Paraphrasing the post, the author felt that we’ve come to a place where every customer thinks they deserve special treatment. But when everyone asks for special treatment, it waters down the “specialness” of the extras, and staff and management will just stop listening to requests.
For example, I’ve seen where it’s a regular behavior for travelers to write a hotel in advance to ask for some sort of special something or other. Maybe an upgraded room, early/ late check out, club access or some kind of birthday/anniversary/engagement gift. Afterwards, they’ll post online about all the great things this particular hotel gave them and advise other people to follow the same plan. The crazy thing is, people get mad when a hotel doesn’t honor their requests. “How dare the hotel not give me the upgrade I asked for, when they gave it to that other person? This hotel is HORRIBLE. One Star!”
Instead of focusing on the requests, I started to think about why we think it’s OK to constantly ask for special treatment. When did we become a bunch of entitled whiners and complainers when we don’t get what we think we deserve?
I’m going to reveal a little behind-the-scenes secret of Your Mileage May Vary – Joe and I each have ongoing lists of what we plan to write about, not only in the immediate future, but also what we’d like to post…eventually. Some of the topics in the latter list can stick around for literally YEARS and sometimes, like today, something that’s been on a list for a long time gets pushed to the front because of reasons.
Such is the case of this topic of mine: Tom Bihn bags.
When I wrote my article about the two conflicting words that lead to poor customer service, I had no idea it would touch such a nerve. The one comment I received the most from people who work in customer service can be paraphrased in this simple statement: