Customer Service in the Recession

Posted by: Jena McGregor on January 31, 2009

I’ll never forget that red-headed Continental counter agent in Seattle. I was traveling on business, and in an effort to save money and time, I chose to take the red-eye back to New York. I checked in, got through security in time to eat dinner before the flight, and arrived at the gate only to find that while the weather in Seattle and Denver was just dandy, Denver—where my flight connected through—was having a snow storm. My flight was cancelled.

Long story short: Despite service from Frontier Airlines (again, trying to save money!) that was anything but helpful, I managed to get rebooked on a Continental flight, at no cost to me or my company. My travel agent informed me that because I flew out to Seattle on a Continental flight (only my return leg was on Frontier, making my ticket more complicated), Continental technically “owned” my ticket, and might rebook me if I asked nicely, though they didn’t have an obligation to do so.

The angel behind the counter who found me a seat on a nonstop flight to Newark that night—I had to be back in New York the next day to close a story, and there were no available rooms in Seattle—went out of her way to get me on the other flight. She called in two different managers to help her make the changes, called the baggage guys to move my suitcase, which had already been checked through Frontier, to the new flight, and found me a window seat that’s always a godsend on the red eye. Though she first told me I’d pay a fee—who cared at that point—she ended up waiving it entirely.

I know these kinds of stories are few and far between in today’s world of recessionomics. With airlines adding fees for everything from blankets to bottled water, hotels cutting back on coffee in the lounge and in-room bottles of lotion, and credit card companies changing terms for shopping habits, finding good service is harder than ever. While many of the best companies are looking for ways to maintain service even amidst falling profits and rising layoffs, others are cutting to the bone.

We’re seeking any extreme customer stories you’ve had recently—either good, like my Continental experience, or bad. We’re particularly interested in really over the top stories related to business—a client dinner that went horribly wrong, an unbelievable shipping experience with one of your products, a business travel nightmare, or a business partner or supplier that went to truly great lengths. Share your stories here, or send me an email, at jena_mcgregor@businessweek.com

 

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