Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More customer service horror stories...and lessons to learn

From reader comments and Facebook posts, it's clear that our recent experience at Jewel Osco was not an isolated incident. And it got us to thinking about other examples of customer service-gone bad. Just a few of the horror stories:

  • Chilly Reception at Chili's: Most restaurants are great at accommodating customers with disabilities. To us, their philosophy is simple: They treat us just like any other customer. Unfortunately, it takes just one slip up or bad experience to create an impression that may last for years. While Chris was an undergraduate at Northwestern, he wandered into a Chili's with his personal assistant to grab some lunch. His PA had to make a phone call in the lobby, while Chris approached the hostess stand to ask for a table. The hostess ignored Chris for the entirety of the PA's phone call. Finally, the phone call ended, and the PA approached the hostess. At that point, she had an obvious look of relief and asked him how many people were in the party. It was clear that Chris had been over-looked and marginalized. That's not a good way to encourage a customer to return. For anyone that encounters a similar experience, it is important to realize that a power wheelchair does not imply that a person can't communicate. The best way to handle it would be to talk directly to any person with a disability, if they can't communicate back to you verbally, they will find a way to share with you what they need. Be it through themselves, their personal assistant, or through some other means. And it's common courtesy to treat all people like human beings.

  • North-worst Airlines: Throughout high school, Dan played on a wheelchair basketball team that traveled across the country playing in tournaments. Most airlines were tremendous in handling the crunch of 15 wheelchair athletes, many of whom had more than one wheelchair. This grouping, unfortunately, does not include Northwest. During one infamous flight, the flight crew took about 30 minutes to load our entire team onto the plane. This wasn't too bad considering they had to help about 10 of us to our seat in an aisle chair (a chair with wheels that fits down the narrow airplane aisles, used to transfer people who have trouble walking to their seat).

  • However, once we were all situated on the plane, and the rest of the passengers were in their seats, the pilot came over the loudspeaker to give information. The first words out of his mouth were the following: "We apologize for any inconvenience, we have a group of quadriplegics on the flight." Nearly all of us gasped. There was so much wrong with those 14 words. First, maybe one or two of us on the team were actually quadriplegics. A quadriplegic is somebody who has some sort of impairment in all four limbs (a paraplegic has a disability affecting two limbs). We understand that some disabilities are difficult to differentiate from others, but it's best to never assume what a disability might be. Also, we had paid Northwest for the flight, and we should be given the proper respect and services that we paid for. A company should never apologize to others for providing assistance to their paying customers. Isn't it the job of flight attendants to attend to passengers on the flight??
While these examples are nearly a decade old, from time to time we still encounter similar experiences at stores, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. It seems as though a few simple lessons can help prevent these misunderstandings from becoming any more prevalent.

We'd love to hear your similar experiences...please share them!


Haddayr said...

I have never ever had anything less than an openly hostile experience at Northwest Airlines, both before but especially after disability.

I usually travel with my crutches because I am so terrified of someone breaking my chair, and there is never a wheelchair waiting for me at the gate. If I ask about it, the staff will sometimes visibly roll their eyes and sigh loudly and irritably at my request. They are horrible, horrible people.

One incident that stands out: I was attempting to insert my credit card into one of the machines for self check-in, but I was shaking too hard to do it.

This difficulty was EXTREMELY obvious, and I was actually attracting quite a bit of attention.

A Northwest employee, who was LEANING ON HER ELBOW on the edge of the kiosk, staring blankly into space, asked loudly and belligerently: "You want me to WHAT?!?!?"

After I repeated myself twice she sighed, rolled her eyes, snatched my card from my hand, jammed it into the machine, and fairly threw it back in my face.

Sun Country treats me like royalty, so when I'm choosing the carrier it's always Sun Country if at all possible.

When I've flown for business I was forced to use Delta, and I will admit that their policies must be better than Northwest's because I haven't been treated that way.

Haddayr said...

Oh, and speaking of customer service or other experiences, have you seen the blog "The Deal With Disability?"


Daniel said...

Hey Haddayr,

Thanks for the insights. That blog is fantastic, and wow, does she have some horror stories on there! The one with the dog-walking client is pathetic.

I'll try and connect with the person who runs the blog, just to let her know that we're out here, and what we're trying to do with our site.

In response to your Northwest atrocities, i'm in much the same boat. Almost never have I had a good experience with them. And I've mostly flown out of Detroit, leaving me little options to NOT fly Northwest.

The one airline I for sure recommend though is Southwest. Not only are they inexpensive, but by having no assigned seating, they allow me to sit in the front row of each flight. This means I can wheel right onto the plane and just transfer directly from my chair into the plane's seat. It's awesome.

And I've had nothing but fun/nice experiences from their flight attendants. So a big gold star to Southwest (and Sun Country)!

Derin said...

We've also run into problems leaving MSP with security-Dan almost missed his flight because he had to wait 30 minutes to get a personalized pat down, and leaving O'Hare with security where they asked him to remove his "prosthetic leg"-which he doesn't have.

johana Schwartz said...

i'm on a date at the grill last November when the manager asked my guest if I want a balloon. "no, Wine list, please"

wheelchairs said...

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Australian telecom company said...

To avoid customer service horrors, CSRs should always adapt to their clients' culture. They should always see to it that patience will be observed.