7 AM, Saturday morning

 

On of the
biggest blessings (and curses from time to time) is dealing with the customers.
For a very long time we had a personal thank you message from me that was sent
to customers with my details if they had any issues. This was back in the days
when we were still a quite small company and we had a hundred bookings per day.

My
rationale behind the service was that is was easier to fix a problem early in
the process than later, and it was cheaper to fix too. I also wanted to send a
signal to my collaborators that I care about customers.

Every now
and then somebody called and were worried about a flight connection or some
other issue. Nine out of ten calls were simple and small things like that. I
could handle the call in a couple of minutes. It never disturbed my day and it
always gave me pleasure talking to someone who confided us with his or her
business, and it still does.

But every
now and then there were people with real problems like a group of four standing
at the airport in Helsinki that had missed their flight connections or someone
shows up at the airport for a flight that has been cancelled. These are extremely
rare instances.  For the customer
at that specific moment it is everything.

One Saturday
morning I had this gentleman call me. He said he needed to try the number
because he couldn’t believe someone would actually pi.jpgck up the phone. It was 7
AM. I assured him I was real flesh and blood there and then to serve him. He
had no real agenda just some petty issues about his booking that we solved in
five minutes. I received these types of calls a couple of time per week and
never thought much of it.

Some years
later on a conference I was speaking at, a person came up to me and presented
himself as the caller Saturday morning at 7 AM. I remembered. He told me he was
a sales consultant travelling around talking about customer service. His
experience with Travelstart had blown him away and he always used us an example
of outstanding service when speaking. I was flattered and thanked him.

The thing
that struck me is how lightly we and most companies in this world take customer
service. We pay lip service when we really should focus all our energy at the
moment and do things to surprise customers. I don’t know how many customers we
have won or lost because of word of mouth. But the truth would probably be shocking.

I am from
time also worried about managers who don’t want to put themselves on the line
for customers. A manager who hides behind a busy schedule and meetings isn’t worth
much in my books.

In a months
time we will release a new section of our pages where you can find direct info
to most people in the company for real time help. People are worried it will
open up the floodgates of complaints, but I rather have people complaining to
me than everyone else.

Customer
service is a rare commodity in 2009 and I can see a future where this will be
worth gold.

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