Customer Service Disaster: You Just Blew It For The Whole Industry!

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Whenever we think we’ve lost a customer, instantly we fear that our loss will be our archrival’s gain.

That happens a lot. But it’s not the worst scenario.

Bill, who owns his own consulting business, was never that fond of flying. Even being bumped up to first-class and being plied with liquor, lost its cache for him.

Then, September 11 came along, and flying got a lot worse. He had to arrive at the airport earlier, and this cut into his consulting time. He had to pack differently, leaving his favorite Swiss Army knife behind.

Airplanes and airports were more congested; his checked luggage was lost more often.

And the miles he earned were becoming meaningless because the last thing he wanted to do when he earned a vacation was seeing more airports, hotels, and rental cars, even if they were free.

Then, it happened, the proverbial straw that broke Bill’s back.

He was told he’d have to check his only bag because it wasn’t going to fit in the overhead compartment on the plane. He disagreed, voices grew louder, and an embarrassing episode followed.

Sure enough, his flight was late, making him late to his meeting. Had he been able to carry on his bag, he would have arrived out of breath, but under the wire.

On the flight home, he vowed not only to not use that carrier again. He decided to get off the road, to stop flying altogether.

This necessitated changing his business model. He’d have to do more phone work, and conduct his out of town selling though videoconferences, web talks, and other devices, but he figured when all was said and done, he’d cut costs and come out ahead.

More important, he’d spend more of his nights at home with his family, his waistline would be smaller, and his stress would abate.

What the airline never appreciated was the fact that it didn’t just shuttle Bill’s business to another carrier; it lost a customer for the entire industry.

When a customer defects to our rival, he may come back to us later, having seen, first hand, that the grass wasn’t greener. But when he washes his hands of an industry, friends and foes alike, lose.

This happens more than customer service models and surveys recognize, because few of us have the imagination to ask this question:

“Are you fed up with us, or with everyone?”

If it’s the latter, that’s a sad commentary on the perceived service level of the industry.

Dr. Gary S. Goodman, President of, is a popular keynote speaker, management consultant, and seminar leader and the best-selling author of 12 books, including Reach Out & Sell Someone® and Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, worldwide. A Ph. D. from USC's Annenberg School, Gary offers programs through UCLA Extension and numerous universities, trade associations, and other organizations in the United States and abroad. He is headquartered in Glendale, California, and he can be reached at (818) 243-7338 or at:


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