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Time to Reexamine Our Customer Service

by Holly Schippers | July 26, 2013 | Bookmark +
Customer service is a dying art. I have run into such poor customer service lately that it has made me reexamine my own service to make sure I haven’t let it go slack in the hustle and bustle of a busy salon. Let’s take a look at the two most frustrating situations I’ve had lately and see what could be learned from them!

On the way home from one international trip in July, I was flying United. When I got to LAX, my bag didn’t arrive on the luggage carousel. No big deal, this happens and is a side effect of air travel, so I’m grateful it happened on my way home instead of my way there. The person at the desk informs me that upon arrival to my final destination I should let them know my bag did not make it for me to clear customs and have them do a search as he could not find it in the system. I haven’t had a bag that wasn’t in the system yet but figured ok, no big. After some flight delays and over 40 hours of total travel, by the time I arrived at the Des Moines airport, I’m exhausted. I go to the baggage claim counter at which I’m completely ignored as if not even there. Finally the gal at the counter with another airline takes pity on me and lets me know they will not help me until the bags from the flight drop and finish circling. It is almost midnight, but ok fine let’s not look for my bag yet so I could just go home, I’m probably just grouchy from lack of sleep, right?

Once everyone else has their luggage and has left, the bag claim person from United will now acknowledge my existence and looks up the bag to find it is still not in the system. I’m given a case/file number and a phone number to call and check on my bag sometime after 9 a.m. the following morning. By the time it is all said and done, I get home about 3 a.m. (I live an hour and a half away from the airport). My amazing husband takes our son to summer camp so I can sleep in so I don’t call about my suitcase until 11 a.m. The automated system tells me they are looking very hard for my bag. After calling every hour until 6 p.m. and hearing they are looking for my bag, I want to talk to a real person. So I start trying to figure out how to make that happen. After finally getting through, they tell me the bag may be in Des Moines at 11:30 p.m. that night. This is not ideal, but fine since I’m flying out very early the next morning anyway, so I can just switch it out. I ask to be connected to the Des Moines airport so that I can speak with an on-site person to ask them to call me to confirm the bag arrived (it has my work stuff in it like implements, lamp, demo stuff, etc.) and to hold the bag for me so that I can pick it up in the morning and repack it. No they cannot connect me with the airport until my bag arrives. This seems silly so I call back an hour later (7 p.m.). Same response; different person.

Now I’m frustrated. I just want to be in touch with someone that can confirm arrival so I know if I need to beg and borrow the things I will need to teach on the next trip. I call the main United line and I literally get to say, “Hello I need to get direct contact information for the bag,” and I’m cut off to be transferred to the same automated bag line I’ve already called. Interesting, it seems like I would be allowed to finish a sentence, but ok, maybe that one person was having a bad day. Wanting to be heard out, I next ask to speak with a manager and am hung up on. I call back several times being told I can speak with a manager and get hung up on. Once can be an accident, but over and over? Not so much.

It is now 8 p.m., and I’m starting to leave my normal state of laidback and easygoing. I call yet again and ask to not be disconnected, not me hung up on, and ask for the name of the person I’m talking to then tell them to get me to a manager without incident. After a nearly 30 minute wait on hold listening to United commercials, I’m connected with a person claiming to be a manager. This person proceeds to tell me that my only recourse is to call the automated line — there is nothing anyone can do; they will not connect me with the airline at the Des Moines airport. Any calls I make to the airport itself are strictly automated with no option or way to connect to a real person that I could figure out. He transfers me to the bag line at which this point I beg the other person to please, please just let me leave a message with a real person. They will not connect me to the airport until my bag scans as having arrived and that’s that. So I call back at 11:45 p.m. and ask to be connected to the airport… no they cannot connect me to the airport as it is after 9 p.m.

I’m now LIVID. I have to leave home at 3 a.m. in order to swing by and pick up my BFF’s demo kit so that I will still be able to do the classes without my stuff, then get to the airport and hunt for my bag. I arrive at the airport on 2 hours of sleep (remember this is after traveling for 40 hours then having only 8 hours). I go to the United counter only to be told that they are too busy to go see if my bag is there. Excuse me? I need to catch a flight; I need it now and have been unable to contact anyone up until arriving in person. Someone is reluctantly sent down to baggage claim with me. He proceeds to ask what the bag looks like not even bothering to try tracking my number. Nope it is not in the luggage bay, he starts to walk back to the ticketing area. I proceed to demand that he track the bag, again he declines the necessity and goes to look in another location. He comes back and sits at the desk just kind of looking at me as if I should leave. I ask him again to check the tracking as I had been told the previous evening it should have arrived. This prompts him to look in one more place. There it is. He says, “It is in the bay to go out to be delivered; you’re so lucky I have this key.” Lucky?

It was a relief to be able to run out to the curb and play musical suitcases as I threw things from one into another and got them together; however, I was so frustrated and angry that it literally gave me a headache. Can you see anyplace that things could have been adjusted for customer service? Lost luggage is a reality if you fly. It happens, so I don’t tend to have a cow. However, is acting like I’m a huge inconvenience the way to go? What if a customer comes into the salon and you have to cancel their appointment right as they would be sitting down for it because something has come up? I know that is not the same, but we don’t lose our customers’ livelihood ;)

As I’m feeling a little sad towards the state of humanity, I run into the next situation in the same week. I have reserved a car via Hertz Gold, which is usually an awesome program that saves me time. I arrive at the Tyler, Texas airport to find an empty service counter. No big deal; it is a small airport and there is probably only one person working. Looking around I see the person is out having a smoke, again, no big deal. Everyone deserves a break in the workday. After a while he comes in does the rental and sends me out. I’m baffled at first because there are usually certain spots for gold members to pick up the car, again, small airport, so no big deal. I ask him what spot it is in and he tells me to just go walk around and beep the remote I can find it. Excuse me? Walk around and beep the remote? …No looking over the car either? I venture out and finally find the little car. No usual upgrade, ok no big deal, there’s not always availability, but there is what appears to be black paint on the back doors of the car and the car is silver. I try calling, no answer. So I flip around and go back in, he was back outside. Interesting that he can make it outside for a cigarette but not to inspect a car….. I report scratches on the trunk and the paint. He proceeds to tell me an airport location can’t be bothered with every little thing wrong with the cars. I bring up the fact that I don’t care to pay for the paint damage if the next airport I drop the car off at does not view it as “no big deal.” I have to force him to document it.

What could have been done differently here? Would you do an amazing pedicure and then tell the client to polish their own toes? How about if the client next to them bumps them getting up and smudges their polish? Should they just suck it up because you can’t be bothered to fix something so minor?

These situations, while disappointing, have really inspired me to think of a new way to show my clients how much I appreciate them in the coming months. What are the little extra things you do in the salon to keep your customer service golden?

Not wanting to leave you with a negative blog, I would like to share my restored faith in Hertz thanks to Jonathan at the Hertz counter in New Orleans the evening of July 22 when I arrived at nearly midnight. A couple things had gone wrong with my reservation that I thought I had taken care of. He was so helpful and literally worked with me between clients for an hour to figure out how to fix it. It is people like Jonathan that keep me thinking humanity is salvageable and that Hertz Gold really is one of my favorite programs. A big thank you again to Jonathan, who saved my trip to New Orleans, made me feel welcome and appreciated, and just in general earned some serious good karma!!

— Holly

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