Tag Archives: rude

The Power of Visuals

We’ve all heard the expression that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well, what about a gesture?  How many words is that worth?  It depends on how serious you are about the image that your company is trying to convey out in the world.

Last week, the power of the gesture struck me as I was leaving a Dunkin’ Donuts in Rhode Island.  As usual, the place was packed and I parked behind the building, since all the spaces on the street were taken.  After getting my extra large, iced French Vanilla, cream and three Equals, (I’m always fascinated at how specifically everyone orders their coffee – often much more complicated than my “usual”) I got back in the car and attempted to leave the parking lot.  Unfortunately, there was a white van blocking the driveway.  It wasn’t blocking it a little, it was directly across the entire driveway.  Luckily, there was someone behind the wheel waiting for his partner to bring back the coffee.  So I tooted my horn.  The van moved up about 6 inches.  Given that my car isn’t six inches wide, I tooted again.  Let me be clear here – I didn’t lean on my horn – just a quick toot.  Well, on the 2nd toot, he moved about another 4 feet.  I was able to just about squeeze through without scratching his fender and my passenger door.  As I was making a right, it was touch and go trying to navigate the turn with this van literally right on top of me.  So this time I hit the horn.

Now, if you were blocking a driveway and you knew you were blocking a driveway (there was a sign that clearly read “Don’t Block The Driveway” right across from the passenger window of the van), you’d assume that you’d get some flack from people trying to get out of the driveway, no?

He didn’t move another inch.  As I came around the van, I noticed that it had the name of a company in Fall River across the side in bright blue letters.  Name, logo, location and phone number. As  I drove past the van, I looked out my passenger window towards the van driver.  He looked right at me and put his arm up against the window with his middle finger pointing to the sky.  Aside from the obvious rudeness, what really struck me was the image of this hand right next to the company logo.  It would have made a great picture.

As I was driving down the street, I decided to circle back, so I made a u-turn, and jotted down the name and number of the company.  The juxtaposition of the company’s obvious effort at trying to portray a professional organization, next to their driver’s “brand statement” was too much to ignore.  I wondered if they would want to know how they were being portrayed on the street to potential customers by this driver – whose job it is to represent them.

So I called and asked for a manager who was in charge of their fleet to discuss a problem I encountered with one of their vans.  A manager came to the phone, and I related to her what happened, and followed it with my comment that I was guessing that this wasn’t the image they wanted to send to potential customers out on the road.  She was shocked and repeated to me, “Our driver gave you the finger?!”  “Yes,” I said, “it was rather striking next to your company logo.”  The manager asked for any other details (location, time, etc.) and assured me that the person would be dealt with and that this was NOT the impression they wanted to give.  She made the point to thank me for bringing this to their attention, and she sounded very sincere in those thanks.  I told her that I was the president of a marketing and sales firm, and that I know first hand now how hard it is to get a positive message out there.  It seemed a shame to have it squandered by an employee who simply forgot that he was not in his own car, representing himself.  He was being paid to represent a company.

While it may seem harsh that I called and reported him, as a business owner consider how you might feel if a gesture sent a message that you never ever intended.  How many words is that worth?

— Lisa Dennis

Fly With Us? US Air Grounds Itself With This Passenger

As many of you know, the airline industry is at a difficult cross roads:  vying for customers, increasing fuel costs, profitability eroding, some airlines even emerging from bankruptcy filings.  Seems like a time when focusing on the customer would be a top priority, no?  Well – not for every airline, apparently.  Perhaps US Airways needs to communicate that imperative more effectively to their front line staff.  Here’s what it was like trying to be a US Air customer last week.

The situation begins at Continental.  I had an initial flight with Continental, which was delayed, causing me to miss my connecting flight.  So, Continental re-booked me on Delta (they have an agreement with them) to get me out on their next flight.  I went to Delta to check in, who claimed not to have the reservation.  A set of flight vouchers and a copy of the reservation showing me booked on the flight didn’t seem to impress them.  They still said they didn’t have me in their system.  Go back to Continental, they told me.  But Delta did have my luggage – which was transferred to them by Continental.  I told Delta that, who still insisted they never had my reservations or bag.  I was exhausted after a long week, and frankly didn’t want to get caught in between airlines.  I needed to get a flight out. So I decided to see if I could get a flight at US Air. I had vouchers that would allow me to fly on any airline.

So off to the US Air ticket desk I went.  The US Air agent looked at my vouchers, said there was a flight, started to book me, and then informed me that I would have to get my bags back myself, and have them rechecked before being put on the plane.  One small problem:  I didn’t have my bags. They were already in the baggage loading area, having been checked at Continental, and then transferred to Delta.  And I was not quite sure where they were currently.

So I tried to explain the situation, and the US Air agent kept interrupting, his voice getting louder and louder. I was not successful in explaining – so I took a deep breath and said “We’re not communicating well here.  Can you let me explain the situation and the help I need?”

He interrupted me, stated that he was trying to help me, but that I was being rude.  Given his treatment of my request for help with locating my bags, I found that a bit ironic.  I tried to explain again that I didn’t have access to the bags and needed his help.  Could he call down to the baggage area (which I had no access to) and ask for my bags to be located? He kept telling me I had to get them myself. This wasn’t possible because they were in an area which is not open to passengers! He cut me off again, tossed my vouchers onto the counter and said:  “You know what? You’re not my customer.  Go back to Continental.”

Needless to say, I was pretty shocked by that – and asked him, “Is this how US Air treats someone who is trying to be a customer?”  He got very angry at this point – put his head down, raised his arm and waved me off.  “Go!  You’re not my customer. You’re Continental’s problem.”

So I asked to speak to a supervisor.  He told me that he was the supervisor.  I then asked for his name (his badge was turned so I couldn’t read it).  “I’m not going to give you my name.” he said.  So I asked to speak to someone above him, which of course, he refused.  I told him that I was shocked that I was trying to buy a ticket and ask for some assistance and that he had treated a potential customer that way.

His response was to snatch my vouchers from the counter, come from behind the counter and march away with them.  No explanation or word to me.  He just took them and left.  I followed him – and told him that I would be speaking with Customer Relations at US Air.  He looked back at me, and said, “I don’t give a damn who you talk to.”  And then he marched up to the Continental desk, which was empty, and he walked behind the desk and threw my tickets onto the counter.  The tickets slide across the counter and hit me.  Then he slammed the door and marched back to the US Air desk.

US Airways’ current tag line – displayed prominently on their website – is “Fly With Us.”  Apparently this ticket agent didn’t know that US Air actually WANTS more passengers.  If asking for some help, and wanting to be heard until you’ve finished a sentence is unacceptable – then how many of us will fly with someone else?  I know that this passenger now believes what the US Air ticket agent said is right – I am not their customer.  Not now. Not ever.

Oh – and I did make it home the next day with the assistance of an amazing, helpful and thoughtful ticket agent at Continental.  She tried to book me on the US Air flight – since it was the only and last flight out that night.  Unfortunately, my friend at US Air noticed the reservation, called her back and said, “We don’t want her.”  So he canceled the booking.  The last flight out – and he knew it.

My Continental agent felt really badly.  She even apologized for the behavior of the U.S. Air agent.  Apparently, my friend at US Air has a bit of a reputation at the Charleston Airport.  A ticket agent, a gate agent, AND a TSA supervisor there told me that he does this to people all the time.  Mary, the Continental agent, apologized for him – even though he was not with her company, and not her co-worker.  She still apologized that I had gone through something so awful in “her” airport.  Mary Platt, ticket agent with Continental, was fabulous. She booked me a hotel room without being asked, arranged for a shuttle to pick me up – and got me a tooth brush!  Oh yes, she went to find my luggage and confirmed that Delta was wrong.  They did have my bags – which flew off to my destination without me.  God, I love to travel!  I can say that in over 20 years of flying for business – I have never experienced the kind of customer “service” that US Air had to offer me.

So “Fly With You?”  Not a chance.  Continental got it right.  Empathize with the customer’s problem.  Anticipate the help they will need.  Do it without being asked.  Cover all the details.  Own the problem – even if you didn’t create it.  Make it all better!   And she did.  Thanks, Mary Platt.  The more you helped me, the worse Jeff, the U.S. Air ticket agent looked.  He obviously doesn’t know what a repeat customer looks like – and it’s clear that you do and you will!

— Lisa Dennis

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