If you have ever relied on public transportation, you know it can be a gamble in “what” and “who” you actually get driving the bus or cab. A recent trip to a Midwestern city [sadly] became my WORST EVER customer service experience! Let me explain.
Words don’t exactly do this experience justice, but here goes. I arrived at this local airport and needed a taxi service to transport me to a client site. After a 20 minute wait, “this” is what greeted me:
The driver’s pants were loosely gathered around his waist but kept drooping which made his underwear visible. He was wearing a thin white undershirt and I could see dripping grease and sweat in his hair. He was not clean-shaven. To top it off, he mumbled like Jabba the Hutt (that interesting character from Star Wars).
The cab had three opened boxes of cigarettes on the dash, two half-used Pepsi bottles and party beads on the floor, a pillow and sleeping bag crumpled in the back seat, and black residue could be seen on the seats and fabric roof. And once the door closed, I was thankful a window was cracked to curb the odor permeating the vehicle.
Now you may think, how in the world did you let this person take you anywhere? Well, to be honest, it was so surreal that I didn’t fully realize how ridiculous this experience really was until we pulled away from the airport. And in addition, I shared the cab with two other ladies, who were each as mortified as I was (and together we made each other feel “safe”).
Long story short – he got me where I needed to go, although I felt like I needed a shower after I got there.
So, what’s the moral of this very colorful story? Three lessons come to mind:
#1 Excellent customer service starts with clear expectations.
For every organization that sells “service”, leaders must provide a clear picture of what that “service” should look like. No one can communicate your expectations better than you. In such competitive environment, employees have to understand what makes you different from every other company out there who does what you do. And just as important, they must understand the consequences of not exemplifying that standard.
#2 Common sense isn’t so common.
Based on scenario described above, we scratch our head in confusion. How could someone possibly think that performance is acceptable? Well, it’s human nature. To this taxi driver, he may have honesty believed he did his job (his common sense). After all, he got me safely to my destination. Unfortunately, the journey is often just as important as the destination. And that is one aspect of performance that still needs clarification for this particular employee.
#3 Find ways to take your service pulse.
Many organizations provide service remotely. And while a leader can’t have eyes and ears everywhere, it’s important to create observation checkpoints to ensure – not police – performance. The autonomy to work outside immediate supervision brings with it a greater responsibility. We can’t afford a service misstep. And one more thought, contractors affiliated with your organization are extensions of your brand as well.
Fast forward to today. I was so shocked by my taxi experience that I wrote a letter of concern to the airport. I suspected they had no idea THIS was the experience greeting visitors to their city. I got a response within three days from the airport apologizing for my experience, thanking me for speaking up and informing me that:
- The taxi service had been removed from the airport’s courtesy phone listing;
- The licensing/permit office at City Hall was contacted for an investigation; and
- The concern was forwarded to the city’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to review this particular taxi business.
- They welcomed me back and sincerely asked me to give their city another try (my favorite part of the letter).
The purpose of my letter was not to get anyone in trouble. However, I know the next time I visit this city, I can be confident a positive experience will happen both at this airport and wherever I may need to travel once I arrive.