Anticipating Customer Needs Is Killer Customer Service

caesars-AC-logoMy travel schedule has been quite insane for the last several months. I do my best to create reasonable time buffers, but sometimes challenges cannot be avoided.

In late August, I spent the better part of a week in New Jersey for the ABC State Conference. I was there just long enough to experience both an earthquake and an evacuation from Atlantic City. The low point was the letter under-my-door from Caesar’s Palace Atlantic City. In terse language it, essentially said the following.

  • Governor  Christie has ordered the hotel and city be closed by 5pm, today.
  • YOU have to check out by Noon
  • You’re own your own
  • Good luck

No effort was made to set up some additional concierge service to assist with transportation out of Atlantic City. The letter was not even signed by the General Manager of the hotel. Just Caesar’s Palace Atlantic City. An otherwise solid hotel experience tainted by really weak communication.

Warm and fuzzy definitely not included…

The good news is that due to my urgency (aka panic), I arrive at the airport three hours before my scheduled flight departure. The big question would be: Would I make my plane change in Nashville, on the way back to Las Vegas? Remember, of course, on that Friday, it had already been announced that airports would be closed on Saturday at Noon.

As boarding time approached, the gate agent made it clear, by announcement, that although our flight from Philly to Nashville would be leaving late, that transfer flights in Nashville would also be held back until late arriving passengers could board. I made the plane-change, as did my bags. Score 1 for Southwest Airlines.

I was back in Las Vegas by 7:30pm, watching hurricane unfold on The Weather Channel. I admit to experiencing a twinge of survivor’s guilt.

Managed to hitch a ride to the Philadelphia airport by the kindness of a British couple, on holiday.

About two weeks ago I spoke at the NAWP National Conference in Naples, Florida. I was flying out of the beautiful Ft. Myers Airport. I arrived plenty early for the flight, only to find out that it was delayed an hour, which would cause a problem for my connection at Chicago’s Midway Airport. The check-in agent put me on a later flight from Chicago to Las Vegas. Not a huge deal.

So much for my optimism. Before I could blink, the 3:30pm flight, first bumped to 4:30pm, was delayed again to 6:30pm. That give me a stressful 35 minutes to make the change in Chicago, assuming everything went well.

As I, and 136 other passengers, brooded in our chairs, a Southwest gate agents made the rounds passing out $150.00 flight credit vouchers, as compensation for our inconvenience. The was simply a proactive move on their part. It turns out the delay was caused by a mechanical issue that required a fresh aircraft. Southwest owned the issue as their problem (not an ‘Act of God) and stepped up.

We took off a little late, so my anxiety level was up for the mad-dash in Chicago. I asked a flight attendant what I should expect. She called ahead, and returned to tell me what gate we would use after landing, where my connection would be gated, and that… again… Southwest would be holding the flight from Chicago to Las Vegas until I, and a few other passengers got there.

The aircraft circled Midway, delaying us another half-hour, and I was certain the connecting flight would be gone. Upon landing, I hustled from the B Concourse to the A Concourse, where a very relaxed gate agent scanned my ticket, and welcomed me aboard. Bags? Once again, despite the quick change, my bags arrived in Las Vegas. Score 2, 3, & 4 for Southwest.

Why I Fly Southwest

They boast low prices. That helps. But things like Bags Fly Free and No Flight Change Fees are a huge deal.

Most of all, I fly Southwest for the overall disposition of all their employees and their collective efficiency.

In these recent situations, thinking ahead, and acting on behalf on small numbers of passengers, such as me, was stellar customer service. The surprise on the faces of passengers receiving $150 flight vouchers was visible.

I turned my voucher into a gift for my girl friend, Jessica. She had been talking about making a trip to Chicago to visit her daughter, who had moved there in the spring. That voucher and another $29.40 gets her to Chicago and back. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade!

It reminded me that customers are often in the hands of professionals, in a big way. That’s a big responsibility. I’m going to see what I can do to ‘get out in front’ on a more consistent basis. Southwest sets a superb example.

Professionals, in all industries, should not just serve our clients, but protect them and act in their best interests. It’s a high standard, but worth achieving.

Had a great service experience lately? Please share it in a comment.

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “Anticipating Customer Needs Is Killer Customer Service

  1. In nearly every on-line and print publication where customer satisfaction surveys look at national companies, Southwest Airlines is at or near the top of the list. They have a set a standard that is tough to beat.

    Their example should give all of us reason to re-examine our customer service models. The question for us as wedding professionals should always be: What can we do that goes “above and beyond” for our customers?

    If we all took the approach that just doing our job is not enough – imagine the reputation we can carve out for ourselves when we become known as a vendor (or industry) that makes going-the-extra-mile a time-honored tradition of our services.

    Larry

    • Larry,

      Thanks for your comments on the Southwest – Customer Service post.

      I will be sending a copy of my post, with a cover letter, to Southwest. I want to make sure they know their style of work is appreciated AND share.

      Andy

  2. Andy, I couldn’t agree with you more about Southwest. I especially love their “No Change Fees” as well as their optimistic and friendly attendants. I usually sit in the back of the airplane with hopes that I’ll have an empty seat next to me, and usually every time I order a cocktail for the flight, they usually serve me first as I’m just one person.

    It’s those little things that elevate the service levels. And, you can’t beat their prices.

    Great Job Southwest!

  3. I am an adult bride … AND I’m a store manager in the retail industry, so I understand customer service. I too fly Southwest, not only for work, but for my personal travel because of their exemplary customer service! …

    However, I am finding that many, if not all ‘wedding professionals’ are rude, insensitive and down right ornery to older brides. I’m am soooo sick and tired of being made to feel like I shouldn’t be the bride … or that I’m too old to get married … AND I’m sick and tired of prices changing based on what the industry can get for a particular service.

    List your prices on your websites … it is what it is. If I email and ask for a quote, I get bombarded with calls … I emailed one vendor who told me to call, when I called, they said they would email me information, and the email I received told me to call for information … really? …

    I personally got involved with all vendors who have ‘flat rate’ pricing because I’m not going to be shelling out a small fortune after my wedding is over to cover the ‘incidentals’ …

    The wedding industry is NOT customer service friendly, nor are they fair.

    I’m almost at the point of regretting to actually hold a wedding. UGH!!!!!