Treat Your Customers Like Human Beings

“Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings, and they will always come back for more.”
-Leon Leonwood Bean

I grew up in an L.L. Bean family.  Of the immediate members of my family, I am the only one who has never worked for the company.  My grandmother, aunt, and father all eclipsed the 30 years of “service” mark.  I use the word service for a reason.  Dating back to its beginning, the company has been a leader in providing top-notch customer service.  Last year, L.L. Bean was rated the #2 company for customer service by Business Week.

When I started Atayne, it was in my blood to ensure we provided the best customer experience possible. It is something I think about everyday, especially, when I am on the other end of the deal – as a consumer.  I analyze how other companies handle my business and think about how I can apply any learnings to Atayne.  I get some great ideas from this, but at the same time I often discover what not to do.

Last week (2/26/09) I had another encounter with my favorite (sarcasm) airline.  If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will remember that I wrote about another experience with them a few months ago.  I had pledged never to fly that airline again.

Needing to book a flight for a meeting, I decided I would use my remaining miles and save the money.  This would be my farewell flight.  I booked the flight using 50,000 miles.  When I went to check out, I realized they were going to charge me $80 to book this flight, a $25 processing fee (somewhat understandable) plus $55 for wanting to use my miles within 14 days of my trip (not so understandable).  I decided to go ahead and book anyway.  I would save close to $200 and would be able to sever my ties with the airline having used almost all my miles.

The next day I got a request to reschedule the meeting.  I knew this would lead to a nice battle with the airline.  A new date was set and I called to find out about changing my flight to 3 days later.  As the “customer service” rep prepared her response, I mouthed exactly what I knew she would say, “I can help you with that, but it will cost $150 to make the change.”

I responded, “It costs you $150 to make that change?”

As expected, she returned with, “No, that is what it will cost you.”

Not wanting to let this go, I quickly responded, “But will it cost you that much money?”

She was obviously getting irritated and said, “No, it is just our policy.”

In my mind, their policy is to try to make everyone not want to fly their airline so they can finally go out of business.  Regardless, I made the change making it clear to her that what I am paying in “processing fees” could have paid for the same flight I am taking (and earned myself a few more miles instead of using them) .  Adding insult to injury, I asked if she could email the updated itinerary to me.  Four days later, I have still not received it.  Apparently, they are waiting for me to pay another $25 to process the sending of the email.

I do have a point to this story.  How often do you think executives for this airline make a call to customer service to see how the call is handled?  I would venture to say never.  If they were treated the way they treat their customers, I guarantee they would take their business elsewhere.  So how can they even question why their revenues and stock price continue to fall?  They are losing customers.

Atayne is just a small little company trying to make it in a tough environment.  But we know one thing, treat our customers like human beings and they will come back for more.

If you have ideas on how Atayne can always deliver a world-class experience, please share.  Without happy members of the Atayne community, we are nothing more than a…well, airline going out of business.

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5 responses to “Treat Your Customers Like Human Beings

  1. Good read Jeremy, I’m proud to be your aunt and I’m proud to be a long term LLB employee. I’m pleased to see your analogy of LLB customer service and your ATANE customer service. You can’t go wrong treating your customers with respect! PS: Sometime I want to know what air line you are talking about…

  2. My favorite Atayne-ism is the thank you e-mail I get from you personally (not a form letter from a computer server) each time I order a shirt. Now THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about 🙂

  3. Amen sista!!!

  4. i think you should become a consultant for this airline. which one is it? i dont want to fly them either!

  5. What a nice blog and thanks for the mention. By the way, if you add all the years the three of us have been at LLB it comes to 105 years. They have certainly been very oriented to providing exceptional customer service over the years. If you follow their rule I’m even more sure than ever that you will do a super job and Atayne will become a very successful company. An old LLB rule is “The Customer Is Always Right”. Maybe the airline should try this.
    Love you, Mammie

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