CUSTOMER

Yes, customer service really is circling the drain – here’s what to do about it

Marcinski/Shutterstock
Marcinski/Shutterstock
Customer service isn’t what it used to be.

You’ve probably heard your parents or grandparents say it — heck, maybe you’ve said it — but other than vague memories of the way things were, you had no proof.

Well, now you do.

A new survey by Arizona State University reviews historical data on the customer experience going back to a 1976 White House study. It found the amount of people reporting customer problems climbed from 32 percent in the 1976 study to 45 percent in 2011, and then 50 percent in 2013.
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Maybe good airline service is possible after all

RealCG/Shutterstock
RealCG/Shutterstock
As Juanita Centanni boarded a recent Cayman Airways flight from Tampa to Grand Cayman, she braced herself for an awful travel experience.

She remembered what happened to her on a domestic flight not so long ago, when she was recovering from rotator cuff surgery. Centanni, a retired government employee, wondered if one of the flight attendants could help with her carry-on bag.

“Ask one of the passengers,” the airline employee snapped.

So when a Cayman Airways attendant met her at the door without any prompting, offering to carry her luggage and stow it in the overhead compartment, she couldn’t believe it.

“I was amazed,” she says.
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Secrets for getting the very best customer service

Life/Shutterstock
Life/Shutterstock
It’s the proverbial man-bites-dog story for consumer reporters: an over-the-top customer service experience in which an employee goes the extra mile.

It’s even more rare — on the order of man-bites-man — to find a proven way to extract the very best service from employees.

I won’t mince words. Men are not biting men.

But a series of recent stories and one reader’s experience give me hope that it’s possible. In other words, you could get superior service every time you go to the store or log on to your computer to go shopping.
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5 times customers should say “sorry”

Raywoo/Shutterstock
Raywoo/Shutterstock
Ever apologized to a business? If you said “never,” then maybe you don’t have kids.

At some point, each of my children has slipped a candy bar or lollipop — strategically stocked at kid-level in the checkout area — into their pockets without first informing Mom or Dad. When we discovered the transgression, we raced back to the store, paid for the item and apologized. Profusely.

Then we gave the kids a stern lecture about paying for merchandise before leaving the store. We haven’t had any relapses, but then again, the teen years are just around the corner. Fingers crossed.

I hear a lot of apologies in my line of work. But as a consumer advocate, they almost always go one way: the company apologizes to a customer for a problem, actual or perceived. Sometimes, the tables should be turned.
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You’re a bad customer and you don’t even know it

1-IMG_4079Deadbeats. Gate lice. Entitleds.

Pull back the curtain on the service industry and you can hear them talking about us — often in unflattering terms.

Being tagged as a terrible customer can be embarrassing. Consider the lousy tippers database, which outs customers who have the gall to pay the menu price for their meals, minus a gratuity. Being a bad tipper can have real consequences. Just ask Drew Brees, who, as it turns out, is not a bad tipper.

But did anyone bother to tell us what being a “good” customer means? That’s not always clearly disclosed. Maybe it should be.
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Good customer service from the TSA? It’s no joke

Tifon Images/Shutterstock
Tifon Images/Shutterstock

Like most Americans, Jim Davies believes the Transportation Security Administration might benefit from a top-to-bottom reform.

And like most Americans, he wasn’t surprised when a Government Accountability Office study revealed widespread employee misconduct, including screeners involved in theft and drug smuggling activities, as well as circumventing mandatory screening procedures for passengers and baggage.

All of which made his recent experience in Philadelphia so noteworthy. As he waited in line to have his ID checked, he saw three elderly men approach the checkpoint.

“One of the gentlemen had clearly not been on a commercial flight in some time,” he says. “He presented his Medicare card and then his library card as his ID.”
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