One Huge Lesson I Wish Big Biz Would Learn from this Small Fry

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I’m sure we’ve all got ‘em.  Horror stories about poor, bad, terrible, and plain awful customer service experiences.

My most recent experience was probably just poor, but I learned an important lesson from the experience.

Here’s the quick overview.

There are two airlines in PNG.  The one airline allows 32kgs per person on flights to Australia.  The other allows 20kgs.  However,  when I asked the manager of the international travel department, I was told they (the airline allowing 20kgs) would honor our USA baggage allowance of 2 bags up to 22kgs since we had connecting flights.

When we got to the airport, I worked for almost an hour trying to get someone to help us get more than 20 kgs.  No go.

In many ways, it wasn’t a big deal that at the airport the employees toed the company line and refused to give the extra allowance.  There was nothing in writing about honoring the extra baggage.  In some ways, we were glad to be forced to downsize our bags. (We were actually just carrying several bags to leave in the States, and we didn’t need them.)

However, what really surprised me was my interaction with the top boss at the airport. 

The airport manager.

I walked into the office, and he was sitting in front of his computer doing some audio mixing.  He didn’t look up.  He didn’t apologize that I got bad information from one of his employees.  He didn’t offer any alternatives. 

To be quite frank, he didn’t care.  He didn’t care if he had my business.  He didn’t care if he kept my business.

I wondered why.

In addition to being a fulltime missionary, I’m also a part time small business owner.  As such, I care.  I care when I get business.  I care when I keep business.  Because when I don’t care, I don’t get paid.

Too often employees of big business are too far removed from the customer. 

You are an essential part of my small business.  If you contact me about something and I ignore you, there is a direct correlation between my action and my salary.

Big Biz, that’s what you need to implement.  That’s what you need to master.

You need to teach your employees to care – to recognize that their pay is tied to those very people you encounter.

No, I’m not saying the customer is always right.  We’re not.  Nor am I saying we, the customer, can’t be rude and belligerent.  Nor am I saying you shouldn’t cut loose customers who are not profitable because their demands are inconsistent with your business model.

That’s exactly the point.  I guess the one airline caters more to families and international travelers.  The other to business travelers.  I don’t know why they have such different policies.  But the employee who gave me the wrong information should have told me their real policy or what to expect.  I would have been happier on the other airline.  They would have saved almost an hour worth of employee time at the airport.  The big boss would have got his music remixing done without any interruptions. 

Everyone could have been happy.

Big Biz, teach your employees to care.  Teach them that their pay depends on it.


Incentivize (is that even a word?) their salary.

I think Dave Ramsey is a genius on this front.  The paychecks all of his employees (so I understand) receive are tied to performance.  You come up with a way to save the company money, and you get to share in the profit savings.

Here’s what I think should happen.

If you mistreat a customer who could have been satisfied with a simple solution (this is accomplished by doing something called listening) and you lose that person’s business, then the company should have every right to take the current and future profit loss out of the salary of that employee.

Asking too much?  Sure.  But you get the point. 

I interact with my customers in person (usually via email), but I could never imagine being rude to them.  First, because that’s part of my Christian ethic.  Second, because my business survives on satisfied customers.

Big Biz needs to come up with a business model where all employees would be shocked if another one was rude to a customer. 

If you, Big Biz, learn that, everyone will be happier.

Oh, and you’ll make more money too.


  1. says

    Great post Craig!

    I think everyone should think of themselves as being in the customer service business.

    Stay close to your customer. Satisfied customers may tell their friends about you. Unsatisfied customers will definitely tell their friends about you . . . as in not to buy from you.

    Treat your customers the way you’d like to be treated as a customer.

    • says

      Great advice. We see here a fundamental biblical principle. Treat others just like we would want to be treated.
      That simple teaching could go a long way in helping all of us.

  2. says

    The trick here is to try and retain the feeling of a small business when you’re in fact a large business. I would think nowadays that this would be a really successful marketing ploy, advertising the fact that your gigantic international company treats every single customer as if they have known them for years and they’re an old friend, if only because it’s such a rare thing with big businesses.

    • says

      I think any large business that masters the atmosphere where a customer feels like they are getting personalized attention would greatly benefit any organization.

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