When Customer Service Goes Wrong

I am going to take a break from advertising for the moment, because I wanted to focus on customer service. Recently I have had a couple of fellow marketing/advertising bloggers write about some bad customer service experiences they have had. Sarah Keogh recently had some bad experiences with UPS, and Brittany Haggerty wrote about bad customer service with Virgin Airlines. In each case. In Sarah’s case, she was not actually a customer… a potential customer yes, but a current customer she was not. In Brittany’s case, her grandparents were customers trying to fly to see her graduate.

I will briefly summarize each of these experiences, but you should really go read them for yourself. Sarah was walking down the street one morning when a UPS employee pushing a cart full of stuff dropped a package off of his cart. He didn’t notice he had dropped the package, and when Sarah got to the package she noticed it was for a local cell phone company up the street. By this time the UPS employee was gone, so Sarah picked up the package and was simply going to take it to the companies store. When she got there the UPS employee was there delivering other packages, so she handed him the package. He blankly stared at her, and said nothing, not a thank you, nothing. She called UPS to ask them about why something like this would happen, and has since then received equally bad customer service. While she was not a direct customer, this still has probably turned her off from ever being a customer.

Brittany on the other hand had quite a different experience. Her grandparents wanted to fly from where they lived to watch her graduate from college. They booked flights on Virgin America early to get good deals. After they booked the flights and paid for them, Virgin decided to cancel the flight. They promised to refund her grandparents the money so that they could book another flight. However the refund process took a very long time, and the prices for flights were steadily rising while they waited for their refund. They asked Virgin to also compensate them for money they lost while waiting for their refund, Virgin only offered them a discount on future flights with Virgin Air. This was not the outcome they wanted. Brittany Tweeted about her disappointments, and blogged about them. Someone at Virgin read what she was saying, and what was going on, and contacted her. They have successfully repositioned themselves in a positive way, by listening to people’s frustrations and making them right. They agreed to refund her grandparents the money they originally paid for a flight, and write them a check for any money they lost while waiting for the refund. It is a little sad that they waited until Tweets were Tweeted, and blogs were written about it, but at least they finally made it right.

Now those of you who know me personally, know that I am a bit of a customer service snob. I absolutely HATE businesses with bad customer service, and absolutely LOVE businesses with good customer service. I once had a professor tell me that good customer service is the single most important marketing tactic that a business can employ. Here are a few of my stories regarding bad and good customer service.

About a year or so ago, my wife and I and some friends were meeting some other friends at a restaurant after an event at our local art museum here in Portland. The restaurant was Virginia Cafe, and this was probably the worst customer service I have ever experienced at a restaurant. The server refused to take our appetizer orders at the same time as taking our drink orders. This was only the first thing that went wrong. First of all it is customary to order appetizers at the same time as ordering drinks, that way you get the appetizers only a little after you get your drinks. To top that off the server only took a few of our drink orders at a time, there was maybe 7 or 8 of us there, so you can imagine how long it took to get our drinks before the server allowed us to order appetizers. Finally he made it to my wife and I, and we ordered our drinks, which took forever for us to get, then he did not stop at our table long enough for us to order any food. So I went up to the bar to try to order food up there. The bartender then refused to take my food order saying that our server would be around shortly to take our food order. So I went back to the table and collected mine and my wife’s drinks and took them back up to the bar and told them that we did not want them, and that we had better not see a bill for them. At this point the server came up to the bar, and both the bartender and the server started yelling at me. When the group of us were leaving the restaurant, I told everyone at the table that I would be very happy if none of them left any tips, I don’t think anyone did. I have never been treated so badly in a restaurant before as I was there.

Now for a good customer service experience. And this is probably one of the best customer service experiences that I have ever experienced. Again almost a year ago, two friends of ours got engaged, so we all went out to another local restaurant called Fenouil here in Portland. The service was phenomenal, our server was very attentive to our needs without being too annoying, I am not sure how he did it, but we never had to ask for anything, and yet we hardly noticed there were people refilling our glasses, the food was amazing, and because we were celebrating such a happy occasion their champagne specialist came out to explain the different types of champagnes. We settled on a $60 dollar bottle of champagne, but the restaurant decided to comp us a $250 dollar bottle of champagne! Let me tell you, $250 dollars has never tasted so good. The other cool thing, was that every time someone would get up to go to the restroom, the service staff would bring a new napkin over for that person while they were in the restroom… now I know this probably isn’t the best thing for the environment, but it made us, the customers, feel like we were important, and that we mattered. I definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Portland, or anyone living in Portland!

Here are the links to the blogs of the other stories:




I have many more stories, but this blog is getting really long… So lets hear your stories.What have your experiences been with good customer service?


The Green Guerilla