Would you wear one of these wristbands?

Smile! These wristbands at the Clinique counter at Macy’s promise that an associate will be able to “read your mind” — green for “I have time,” pink for “I’m just looking” and white for “I’m in a hurry.”

Would you wear a wristband if it could lead to better service? I asked the woman at the counter if customers were using the “smile” wristbands.
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Looks like United may not be a lost cause after all

United is ready for takeoff? / Photo by John Rogers – Flickr Creative Commons
For the better part of the last year, I’ve thought United Airlines was a lost cause. The Continental Airlines merger couldn’t have gone worse, from a customer service perspective, and as much as I liked many of the people now working at the new United, it was difficult to say anything nice about the airline — let alone write anything positive.
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Can social media improve customer service? Vail Resorts discovers the answer one run at a time

When it comes to using technology to improve the travel experience, Vail Resorts is known as one of the most progressive resort companies in America. I’ve interviewed CEO Rob Katz several times about Vail’s EpicMix initiative, and RFID-enabled ticket system that integrates with social media. Version 2 of EpicMix goes live next month, and I thought I’d check in with him to see the progress.
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TSA watch: They’re looking for the wrong thing – and congratulating themselves for it

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

If that’s true, then I should probably feel privileged that my old friend Bob Burns has started a “week in review” feature on the TSA site to highlight the positive things his agency has done – and presumably, to counter all of the unfortunate events I tend to write about every week in TSA watch.

But in this week’s post, Burns covers one event for which the TSA deserves to be recognized — and several that left me puzzled.
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New at On Your Side: retail stores

I‘m really excited about this next industry category, retail stores.

Whether you’re shopping at Neiman Marcus or Wal-Mart, it’s not always clear where to appeal a customer service problem. That ends today.

We’ve just posted several of the most popular retailers, including BJ’s Wholesale Club, Costco Wholesale, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Ross Stores, Sam’s Club, Saks Fifth Avenue, Target Corporation, TJX Companies and Wal-Mart Stores.

More are on the way. If there’s a retailer you don’t see, please email us and we’ll be sure to add it to the list.

And a note to anyone who works for these retail stores: We are posting these executive contacts in order to help your customers, not to embarrass you or to short-circuit the customer service process. These names are only to be used as a last resort.

Thank you for being part of this project.

(Photo: Lone Prim ate/Flickr Creative Commons)

Are you smarter than your customers?

It’s hard — maybe even impossible — to do service right if you think your customers are idiots.

If you don’t think customers are capable of rational, intelligent decisions, then it’s oh-so-easy to rationalize treating them like walking dollar signs. Or sheep.

Evidence of their collective dumbness seems to be everywhere. Here’s a cellular phone customer who thought Seattle was in Canada. A classic: The Disneyworld guest who wants to know what time the 3 o’clock parade starts. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to stupid customers.
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Customer circus: 5 funniest customer “service” videos ever

Who ever said bad customer service isn’t funny?

Case in point: The following collection of videos, which are a must-see for anyone who works in a customer-service job or who has ever had a service problem with a company.

In other words, just about everyone.

The videos are more than humorous, though. They’re also instructive, offering broader lessons about becoming a better customer and avoiding truly awful (though sometimes laugh-out-loud funny) service.
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Would you pay more for a better customer experience?

Yes, you would. That’s the conclusion of the fifth annual Customer Experience Report from Harris Interactive.

An overwhelming majority — 85 percent — said they would be willing to pay more than the standard price of a good or service to ensure a superior customer experience.

Before I continue, a warning to any business reading this: That doesn’t mean your customers are stupid.

For example, my Honda dealership in Orlando recently decided to become like Saturn and refuses to negotiate with customers on the price of its cars. It thinks if it can provide better service, customers will be happy to pay the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, which is wildly inflated.

Well, you know what P.T. Barnum said? What he should have added was that there was a finite number of suckers out there.

And we all know what happened to Saturn.

So the real question is: How much more?
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Who’s got the worst customer service in the travel industry?

Will the company with the worst customer service please stand up?

When it comes to the travel industry, I have the inside track on that answer, because I run a travel blog. Last week, I surveyed my readers. And they told me.

The winners? Airlines, hands down.

More than half the respondents — 58 percent — said air carriers have the worst service. Coming in second: car rental companies (37 percent). Cruise lines and hotels trailed the pack at 6 and 5 percent, respectively. More than 500 people took the survey.

Equally interesting was what they said about the service.
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He already likes the new United Airlines — but will you?

You may have missed it, but Continental Airlines and United Airlines officially tied the knot on Oct. 1. And guess what? You might actually like the new United Airlines.

Chris Romm thinks he will. He wrote to tell me about an experience he’d had with United’s customer service department that may be an indicator of things to come.
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Virgin America’s Cush: Passengers “should not have to ask” for customer service

Virgin America begins service to Orlando tomorrow. Remarkably, the three-year-old airline has stayed off my radar, when it comes to customer complaints. I asked David Cush, Virgin America’s chief executive, how he’s done it.

First of all, congratulations on adding service to Orlando. I live here, so I’m pretty excited about having a new airline in town. At the same time, I’m curious about your reasons for coming here. Orlando isn’t exactly a lucrative business travel destination. What’s the appeal?

Orlando has an incredibly strong year-round tourism economy and a great deal of convention traffic. The addition of Orlando also helps us address seasonality in our still growing network. As we grow we do have to balance out our network for seasonal traffic patterns – adding a sunny warm weather destination like Orlando helps us balance our winter schedules.
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Bad customer service: Bluehost’s hairsplitting gives me the blues

I find it incredibly self-serving when a blogger leverages his platform for personal gain. So let me say this up-front: I’m not doing this to get anything, but rather to highlight a questionable customer-service practice.

One of my sites is hosted by Its rates are affordable, and its service is generally adequate. But during the last several months, I’ve experienced some “down” time. Bluehost offers “99.9% Network Uptime Guarantee.”

Today, after the site crashed during primetime, I decided to invoke the guarantee. Here’s the transcript of our online chat.
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Spirit Airlines: “Negative publicity” on customer service could hurt business

Spirit Airlines, as you might have heard, is trying to raise $300 million in a public stock offering. Here’s the Form S-1 it filed last Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It’s worth a read. Companies are required to disclose any risks to potential investors. And although this one seems obvious, it’s interesting to see how Spirit characterizes its own reputation, when it comes to customer service.
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