Going the extra 3,500 miles for customer service

This week marked the fifth aniversary of eBay’s acquisition of my present company and the weekly email from our CEO made much of our progress in that time. Of the three key metrics on which our performance is measured, the substantial increase in our employee satisfaction scores over that time particularly lauded, the principle being that engaged and happy employees  do a great job of making customers happy and those happy customers go and tell their friends who are then inspired to give our service a try.

Similarly, great service and employees who enthusiastically embrace and convey corporate brand values can help turn less than positive associations around.

Recently, I returned from a mammoth three week business trip to the States with the last leg seeing me fly from Indianapolis to Heathrow by way of Philadelphia under the minstrations of US Airways. While the journey was relatively seamless, the luggage almost always one of the first  five bags off the carousel and the business class beds perfectly comfortable, the whole experience was just a little underwhelming. I yearned some of Virgin Atlantic’s slickness or BA’s practiced aloofness.

This has been flipped 360° in the last fortnight after the fateful home stretch from Philadelphia to London. Taking advantage of the two hour layover and studiously avoiding the duty free fags I opted for a chair massage at the airport spa to unknot my travel weary muscles. So relaxed was my state of mind after this I blithely walked off without my necklace – a fact I only realised as the plane was taxiing for takeoff.

Once safely in the air, I buzzed for cabin crew assistance and explained my dilemma. They leapt into action with one running to the cockpit to get the pilots to radio down to the service desk (handily located next to the spa) and another feeding me red wine, comfort and Kleenex. Sadly the spa had already closed but the chief stewardess – the lovely Monica – assured me that she was flying back into Philadelphia the following evening and would personally check in at the spa herself to see if they had the missing necklace.

Having given her my contact details I sat back and resigned myself to having lost it.While not expensive, the necklace was given to me the day that I was born and so the sentimental value was beyond measure. But lo and behold, a mere two days later an email from Monica’s personal address lands in my inbox with good news. She had retrieved the necklace and asked her husband to post it via Secure Mail. Furthermore, she  declined all offers of compensation for the cost of sending it saying that she “only did it because it was the right thing to do” and asking only that I confirm it’s safe return.

I sit here typing with the necklace safely round my neck with a renewed respect and admiration for Monica, cabin crew in general and by extension US Airways who have, with a single act of supreme customer service, leapt from “meh” to “maybe” (I am still a difficult customer to please!). US Airways was the only airline included in the 50 Best Companies to work for in the US in a recent magazine poll. And if my CEO’s theory holds true and employee engagement and satisfaction leads to better customer experience then this airline must be a great place to work.

  • Ben Gotto Smith

    What a cop out! Until PR people strive for that one big uniting idea they will stay scrabbling for budgets and a seat at the top table. Yes it harder to create a big idea that works for earned media but that’s exactly what needs to happen at the heart of any integrated, advertising or even media agency. I know it’s possible because I’ve done it a dozen times.

  • Lorna Gozzard

    Not saying it’s not possible, or isn’t something PR people should be doing when it’s appropriate – just that it’s not the only form of creativity, and we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves if that’s not the route we choose to go down every time. But you’re of course entitled to your view!

  • Mark Parry

    Totally agree with these Lorna, and yes as a PRO I can admit that there are faults on both sides. The big one for me is journalists getting annoyed when PROs can’t / don’t want to provide case studies / interviewees at the last minute. The publication / angle / audience might not meet the organisation’s media objectives. They don’t have to take part. Here are some more:


    Showing up at interviews without researching the story. 
    Asking for a statement with zero deadline, getting it and then not using it. 
    Putting a negative spin on a story that was intended to be positive.

    Press Officers:

    Asking to approve copy.
    Sending a press release and then not answering the phone 10 minutes later / not providing contact details at all. 
    Attaching press releases to emails as a PDF and not even mentioning what it’s about in the body of the email.
    Agreeing to meet a deadline and then not. 
    Following up a press release with a phone call 10 minutes later asking if the journalist has received it and if they are going to use it. Come on, would you like that phone call!? 

    That’s enough!! I agree with Chris Dixon’s comment as well. We need each other, so let’s be honest and make things better on both sides. 

    • Lorna Gozzard

      Thanks Mark – great contribution to the debate!

  • Lorna Gozzard

    I’m certainly not saying the relationship is always perfect from both sides, and it’s obviously disappointing that’s your experience – I was just trying to redress the balance a little, as most of the stuff out there tends to focus on journalist feedback. As you say, both sides need each other, so it’s good to get a debate going – thanks for the comment!

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