Customer Service

Handling an irate passenger


Recently  I was on a flight in the Caribbean and witnessed an incident involving a non-Caribbean family and a Flight Attendant. I observed how it was handled and will share some pointers on what could have been done differently to ensure the situation did not escalate. 

The passenger boarded at the rear of the plane with his family, which included small children. My attention was called to them when I heard the passenger shout “how many times do I have to show them? I just showed the man down there!!”

Apparently, he was irate at having to again show his boarding pass, which he had already shown the airport security personnel at the bottom of the stairs. The Flight Attendant’s voice became somewhat raised as she asked the gentleman again for the passes, which had the seat assignments on them. During this time, other passengers were waiting to board and  some of those already on board were waiting to use the washroom. The incident continued for what I would consider longer than acceptable. 

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Another good Customer Service experience

I like to recognize when companies give service. Have you ever tasted Walkerswood products? They are divine! I used to buy another brand of Jerk Seasoning until a friend said “Walkerswood is the best” and she was right. Their Solomon Gundy has the best consistency I have tasted. Imagine my anxiety when on my last trip to Jamaica, there was none available in any of the supermarkets I had tried….and I had been to several.

Delicious Herring Paste

Delicious Herring Paste

Company websites are famous for having  ‘Contact Us’ being unmanned. I sent a message anyway.  Did I sound desperate enough?

Good day,
I just called your office to say I have been to 4 supermarkets this week. Losushans,  Welcome, Sovereign and Superplus.  Is there a problem with the supply? None anywhete.  I am leaving the island on Monday and would love to get some without having to come to Beechwood Avenue.

This was sent 3 days before my departure. I was not hopeful. And then, within 17 minutes, my email notification went off that Sean Garbutt had sent me an email.

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Service Recovery

I first heard this terminology while doing my Masters at the University of Surrey in the UK. That, and Service Failure. Since then, I have tried to observe situations where there was Service Failure, and what Service Recovery took place. Recently, I tried out a Shellac manicure for only the second time in my life. In fact, I have probably done about 15 or so manicures EVER! It was my birth month and I wanted to treat myself. One of the deterrents to doing manicures is that you are at its mercy until the varnish dries. Very unproductive in my opinion.

The draw to the Shellac is that it promises to last 14+ days. Persons I know have tried it and swear by it. Well, it looked pretty for sure, but by day 3 or so, some nails started to peel. Service Failure. 

Pretty lavender

Pretty lavender

Day 5

Day 5












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Celebrating Customer Service Week

Yesterday marked the start of Customer Service Week globally. In challenging economic times, service is one aspect of an organization’s operation which will help it to differentiate it from competitors. This is especially true in the Tourism industry, where I have spent most of my working life. ‘Service before self’ is a mantra which we had to keep in focus daily.

What are you doing to celebrate Customer Service Week?

Celebrating Customer Service Week 2014

Celebrating Customer Service Week 2014

Two Good Customer Service Experiences

We should always celebrate when we get good service as customers, since there are so many complaints to be heard about poor dealings by providers. Here are my two experiences, which I was happy with.


Went for gas and I remembered that the last time I was there, the Attendant told me oil was a bit low but it didn’t have to be topped up yet. Today I asked the Attendant (a different one) to check it for me. While he was doing that, I took out extra money for a tip – the regular amount I would give for such service. Yes, I know, they will tell you that it is a part of the station’s service but sometimes I give a little extra.

After he finished checking the oil (“it can go a bit still”), I noticed that he went over to the other side of the car’s engine area. I asked if it was the battery he was checking. He said no, it was the Coolant. Then he said he was going to check the Transmission fluid. I thought “wow….others might have just checked what I asked to be done.” So I doubled the tip. 

During this service encounter, he also informed me that the station was now being operated by Total again, as the Dealer had given back the station. He then told me what the gas price was before, and what the lower price is now. This was after he told me that they were out of oil. He told me that there was another gas station nearby which would have it, if I wanted to get it today. So he was also informative.

When I was leaving, he wished me a good day and added “drive safely.” Definitely two thumbs up.


During Christmas shopping in this store, I bought an HDMI cable. The last time I bought one, it had regular straight ends. The Attendant suggested I buy one where one end is perpendicular because depending on the positions of some televisions, the straight end one may not work. Not sure why I listened to him. I went back to Grenada and when I tried to attach the cable, it would not fit, based on the design of the back of my TV. By now, I had thrown away the receipt and the packaging.

On the off chance that the owners would be reasonable, I carried it back to Jamaica. The lady who I first dealt with first made it sound like it would be impossible. She asked for both the receipt and packaging as they wouldn’t know how much it cost. I asked her if she couldn’t use the current price. I think maybe she thought I wanted the money back. So I explained that I wanted an exchange.

She then asked the boss and he too asked for receipt and packaging. I told him that I didn’t expect it not to work and that I don’t keep receipts for any length of time. He also commented on not knowing the price to put back in the system etc. I asked him to do the best that he could do and so I got back the straight end cable, without the receipt and without the packaging. It was a very cordial conversation. 

So I was very pleased with both encounters. The gas station is one I go to all the time, so I will continue going of course. I wouldn’t go to Electro-World very often but certainly if I have any electronic needs, that will be my first option because they gave me, the customer, what I wanted. 

Do you say any of these to your employees?

Entrepreneur magazine published this article by Lindsay Broder which discusses 7 things you should never say to your employees. Be honest. Have you ever said any of them in the heat of an interaction with your employees? I have heard many mangers say #1 “I’m the boss. Do as I say.”  Perhaps early in my managerial career, I might have been guilty of that too. However, as I focussed on my personal development, I realized that I had to find other ways to influence the employees I managed to do their assigned tasks….and willingly, so that customer service could be at the desired standard.

I recall having success where I managed a team, most of whom were much older than me, were unionized and were generally seen by others as the ‘bad eggs’ in the company. Treating each as a human and an individual, I set out to find what made them tick, what their hot buttons were and ways which made them shine. I guess I realized I was successful, mostly, when I received an award for my leadership of that team.

My feeling is that if managers have to resort to any of these 7 phrases or retorts, then they themselves have some work to do on their skills. I am not saying that all managers have to be perfect, however, they should certainly try to better tomorrow, than they were yesterday. Read more, try new things, hire professionals like us to help identify the issues and suggest solutions.

Commit to avoid saying any of these phrases to your employees. They will appreciate you for it and your customer service delivery will improve.

Empathy in Customer Service

I was on a flight within the Caribbean, and observed a very interesting exchange between a Flight Attendant and a young mother, which could be used as a case-study in Customer Service training programmes.

The young mother was travelling with a 15-month-old toddler, who had been keeping her very busy for the duration of the four-hour flight.  She had to use various means to keep him entertained. He just would not fall asleep…..and why should he? It was the middle of the afternoon and there were much more interesting things to do and see than sleep!

Midway through the flight, the passenger took some sweet biscuits from her bag and gave to her son.  Not even 20 minutes after, he threw them all up.  Immediately, the section of the plane we both were in, reeked of vomit.  The two male passengers beside her seemed to be taking it in stride.  From my vantage point behind them, there was no adverse reaction from either of them, and they even seemed empathetic towards the mother.

Responding to the Call Button, the flight attendant came to see what the problem was.  The passenger told her that her son had thrown up. She also mentioned that it needed to be cleaned up. 

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What’s the vision for your service?

Business owners, especially those who are in a manufacturing type company, may focus all their energies on the product, from design specifications to manufacturing processes. How much time is spent designing the service they would like their employees to deliver to customers who will buy those products?

I feel that the starting point is to define what the vision for your company’s service is. What would you like to measure your service against? What key performance indicators will you use? What kind of training will be necessary? How often will you test the service anonymously to see if the end result you envisioned is being delivered to the customer?

If you have been in business for many years, it is not too late to do this exercise. Gather your key employees together and you should also try and include those who have served customers directly as they may have valuable contributions. Brainstorm and see what you define as the draft vision for your service.  Although you would be working from ‘front to back’, you will be able to use the vision statement as the starting point to make changes throughout the company.

To complement that exercise, you will also need to have the necessary training sessions to ensure that it permeates throughout the entire organization and is infused in all your processes.