4 Customer Service Excerpts From My Travel Diary

portlandMy wife and I were afforded the opportunity to leave the kids with their grandparents for the weekend and getaway to Portland, Oregon.  This particular getaway meant air travel, rental cars, restaurants and hotels–a hot bed for customer service and experience stories.

#1- The Flight (Thumbs Up)

I love Southwest airlines.  I probably don’t need to say much more than that.  The whole vibe is totally different from any other airline.  The flight attendants actually seem to like people and enjoy their jobs.  No one is stressing out about whether or not all of the bags will fit on the plane or not.  They are a model for the customer experience.

#2- The Rental Car (Thumbs Down)

Upon arriving at our destination at 11:30PM, we were shuttled to the rental car counter.  The friendly sales associate, seemingly unfazed by the late hour, proceeded to ask at least ten questions all with the intention of getting me to spend more money.  I was immediately reminded why I normally prefer Enterprise.  They still upsell but it’s more like two questions.  It begs the question: Do sales folks like having to grill customers to milk every last dime out of them?

The best upsell was when she tried to get me to spend $10 more to upgrade my car to the next level, pointing to a tiny car in the lot that was sure to be mine if I didn’t upgrade.  I declined and when it came time to get my car, they were out of tiny cars and we were upgraded to a mid-size SUV.  I wonder what I would have done if I paid to upgrade the car and found out she was bluffing the entire time.

#3- The Coffee (Thumbs Up)

A new city means a plethora of new coffee shops to try.  My wife was geeked up to visit one of the many Dutch Brothers that litter Oregon.  It was her first visit so she asked the friendly barista for advice.  She ended up ordering an Annihilator.  The barista handed it to her and asked her what she thought of it.  With one taste, she was hooked.  I confessed that I had been to Dutch Brothers and tried to pay.  My attempt was denied and I was told that this one was on the house because it was my wife’s first visit.  How cool is that?

#4- The Hotel (Thumbs Down)

We stayed in three hotels on the trip.  On the last night, I walked into the room and immediately noticed that they had only given us three pillows.  My wife and I are both proud users of two pillows.  Here’s how my call to the front desk went.

Front Desk: “Hello, how can I help you?”

Me: “Hi! Is there any shot we can get another pillow in our room?”

Front Desk: “Sorry. We don’t have any extra pillows and my boss says there are no exceptions.”

Me: “Really?  But there’s two of us and we both sleep with two pillows.  This is going to make it difficult for one of us to sleep tonight.” (I was a hair dramatic)

Front Desk: “Sorry but my boss said there are no exceptions.”

Me: “Can I speak with your boss?”

Front Desk: “Sorry but he’s not available.”

Me: “Ok fine. Well please let him know that I’m unhappy with this policy.  In the meantime, please do your best to get me another pillow. Keep me posted.”

Front Desk: “Ok.”

Lo and behold, there was a knock at the door about thirty minutes later with a lumpy new pillow.  The employee was quick to say “Here’s a pillow.  This is the last one we have” and I replied with a simple “Thank you very much.”  What is it about a poor experience like this that turns it into a situation where one person wins and another loses?  Had the hotel staff been equipped with an arsenal of extra pillows, this could have been a win-win all the way around.  Instead I was reminded of the slew of other hotel chains I’ve stayed at where this would never have been an issue.


The lesson here is quite simple.  In the two cases where the companies and their employees delivered an AWESOME customer experience, I found myself delighted and determined to return.  In the two cases where employees stuck to silly processes and policies, I was reminded that it may have been worth it to pay a little extra to work with companies that consistently deliver an AWESOME customer experience.

Companies and customer service professionals, take a long look through your customer’s eyes and decide which of these you want to be.


Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

One comment

  • I love a good travel story…so much customer service to sample. It’s incredible how people are people (good and bad) wherever you go. I do however wish that exceptional service was everywhere. What type of horrible training and under-empowered people are out there in the world…let’s take back the world of great service and offer it to EVERYONE. Is there a test we can administer to management and staffers to weed out ugly service? xo

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