How NOT to treat your customers!

bad service on a flight


In my book ‘Selling Moose’ I devote a whole chapter to customer service. Sadly and extraordinarily, poor customer service seems to present itself all too frequently, in all areas of life. We’ve all experienced it countless times. Yet it seems so many people in business just don’t get it.

Nobody likes getting ripped off. One particular sector where we tend to feel short-changed on a regular basis is short haul airline flights. The weird thing about this industry is that it began as one of the greatest pricing revolutions of all time. Suddenly we could take short haul flights at prices we could previously only dream of, providing we were prepared to compromise a little on comfort and frills.

The problem for them now is that having created a low-cost expectation amongst us, it no longer becomes sustainable as market and economic forces shift. Their solution has been to keep the base cost down, but add in ‘extras’ to make up for their spiralling oil costs and less generous inducements from obscure airport sites. We now have to pay for bags, taxes, even our seats! Toilets doors don’t yet have a coin operated slot (at the time of writing!) but gone are the days when it really was possible to fly across Europe for under a tenner.

My recent experience of poor customer service came on a Monarch flight. I had used up all of my sterling but found myself in desperate need of a drink. I asked if they would take euros and of course they would. However, the water that should have cost me £2.30 ended up costing me around £3.50. When I gently queried it, the air hostess told me, with no hint of compunction, that they charge a “slightly higher conversion rate”. Slightly higher? No kidding! This is the travel equivalent of pay-day loans!

It hardly seemed worth contesting and in truth I was just grateful for the refreshment due to my raging thirst. But it was yet another example of feeling wronged – and it’s something that seems to happen all too often nowadays.

I compare this to the superb customer service I receive at my local car garage – Higher Oak on Wrexham Industrial Estate. In the last few months I have returned my Saab to them three times due to the dreaded orange ‘engine light’ appearing on the dashboard. Each time, the fault is minor and they repair it, without charge. They don’t even charge me for the fault diagnosis check!

This level of service is incredibly rare nowadays. On the face of it, it may seem like poor business sense. It took them ten to fifteen minutes. Sure they could charge me £10-£15 and I wouldn’t quibble. But they don’t and I consequently come away feeling almost ecstatic. So where am I going to take it when it needs a service, MOT or something more substantial?

My car mechanic doesn’t do me this favour as a cunning trick. He does it because he’s just a genuinely decent guy. He doubtless does it to others. Over the years he’s probably dismissed thousands of pounds in lost revenue through waving away small jobs like this. But here’s the rub: he’s been in business for thirty years. It’s not easy to get an appointment. His benevolence hasn’t cost him money – it’s made him money! Will my minor grievance with Monarch Airlines prevent me from flying with them again? Probably not. But I don’t have any allegiance to them either. Unlike Higher Oak garage in Wrexham.

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