It's not very often that you get to critique a full on Customer Service Disaster however I had the recent pleasure of being part of an involuntary SkyService case study for Customer Service Do's and Don'ts.
Lesson One: Everyone is in Customer Service
No matter what your job title is, everyone is in Customer Service.
Lesson Two: Diffuse anger with an Escalation Path
When passengers stage a mutiny after a 23 hour delay and the Police have to be called, there should be an escalation process. Do not leave your front line staff to suffer verbal and physical abuse. All customers feel better when their concerns are escalated to someone in charge who can either get things done or give a reasonable explanation. There needs to escalation and ownership.
Lesson Three: Have a Positioning Statement
There should always be a standard set of responses or positioning statements. For example the fact that our plane broke down and then they said is was fixed but the same mechanical problem happened again does not make a passenger feel better. Was it the coffee machine or was it the oxygen that broke? Customer Service responses should be either be very specific or be very vague. For example, "We apologize for the delay as an unforeseen maintenance issue has been brought to our attention and your safety and well being is our main concern. We ask for your patience as we look for alternatives to get you to your destination. Please bare with us."
Everyone should know the standard statements so no matter who a passenger asks, they get the same clear message. Good positioning statements ensure that customers feel like you know what you are doing.
Lesson Four:Proactive Communication
Proactive Communication is key in times of customer service crisis. This includes timely responses and regular updates even when no updates are available. Proactive communication can placate very tense situations. Our experience was that when you sent an email to customer focus at SkyService, this is what we received back: "Depending on the complexity of the issues involved, and due to the need to gather all pertinent information regarding your concerns, response time may take a minimum of 6 weeks."
a minimum of 6 weeks????
I sent an email to the SkyService Customer Focus group on January 3rd and have still not received a response back. I'm not sure how anyone in the service business has the audacity to even put this on an auto response.
If you are in the Service Industry, communicate with your customers early and often.
Lesson Five: Apologize and Empathize
Apologize. There is no need to pull a Fonzy! (those of you who are old enough to remember Happy Days, Fonzy would studder and shake when he had to say he was sorry). Apologize often and sincerely, empathize with your customer, let them vent, don't interrupt and give them their chance to say their peace. The example at how Skyservice failed at this is when the 166 passengers staged a sit in and would not change gates to allow a West Jet plane to load passengers. The amazing part was that the passengers were successful in diverting the West Jet plane from loading and unloading. SkyService lost control of the situation and part of the reason was their inability to provide adequate customer service starting with apologizing and demonstrating empathy.
Lesson Six: Don't hide, Embrace Customers
Don't hide from angry customers. Embrace them, turn them into champions. Today I looked on the SkyService web site and there are no phone numbers published. When you have no phone numbers for Customer Service, no Main Number, not a single phone number for anyone, that is not service.
The lessons I touched on do not cover the fact that they charged us $40 for being 2 kilo's over in our luggage and then lost our luggage anyway.
In a competitive market place, I thought all charter airlines were the same. Saying you have good Customer Service is an intangible to Customers who assume you have an acceptable way of dealing with issues and situations. Customer Service is like personal hygiene, you assume everyone has it. I assume people brush their teeth everyday. This week I found out that Skyservice doesn't brush their teeth.....