Has my customer service gone too far?

As you know, I’m a big fan of customer service and making sure you deliver the experience you promised the customer.  I go out of my way to make certain customer’s expectations are exceeded and they turn into raving fans.

However, listening to Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, I began to wonder whether I had started to take the idea of my customer service too far!

Has my customers service gone too far…

The story begins with a lady called Suzy McLeod.

Suzy had forgotten to print out her inbound boarding cards and when she arrived at Ryanair’s check-in gate she was charged €60 per person for them to be printed.

She paid the “Penalty fares” and boarded the plane home. She then wrote to Michael O’Leary “Asking for compensation and a gesture of goodwill”. Michael rejected her claim in his usual flamboyant style – calling her an idiot!  Suzy took her “campaign” on Facebook and soon had over 350,000 supporting her.  Michael never backed down.

There is a saying that “all publicity is good publicity” but this story got me thinking….

How many business owners did I know (myself included) that would have either waived the €60 penalty fares or, on receiving Suzy’s claim would have refunded the money she had paid?

I think many would have done just to avoid the potential bad publicity and word-of-mouth, afraid of the consequences for their business.

But whose fault was it?

In this case it was clearly the customer’s fault.

She had seen the terms and conditions of the booking and confirmed she had read them.

She had an opportunity to print out the inbound boarding passes when she printed out the outbound passes, so there is no excuse about not having a printer.


Even though she had been staying in a remote village for her holiday without internet access when she arrived at the airport there were a number of internet cafes she could have used before she attempted to check in.

So, if she had wanted, she could have easily printed boarding passes.

We have been told for years “The customer is always right”

Is this always the case in your business?

Ask yourself…

How many times do you make the refund or offer compensation without thinking about it in order to avoid the potential bad publicity?

Where do you draw the line?

And if that line has not been drawn, how do your team members or colleagues know what to do when a customer complains?

My advice is to have a think about what constitutes a valid customer complaint and detail what your team is allowed to do to put those matters right. Write a customer complaints policy and a system to implement it.  You might even have different complain procedures for different “categories” of customers.

That way you’ll have total clarity, transparency and consistency when looking after your customers.

Go on then…

Pull Your Socks Up…






PS  I still have a few places left on my three day January Boot Camp.  If you would like to find out all about it please click this link now.  If you have any questions please feel free to reply to this email and I’ll answer them as soon as I can.  I’d love to see you there.

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Simon has been inspiring, challenging and supporting business owners and their teams to be the best they can be since 1997. In the first three years he owned GreenStones, he quadrupled its profits, tripled its turnover and doubled the number of team members. And if that is not enough he has also ran the London Marathon, cycled from Lands End to John O’Groats (raising over £20K for Arthritis Research) and qualified as a hypnotherapist. Simon now spends his time helping business owners use the Bravest Business Model to help them focus on the most important functions of their business. After they have been working with him for a while they start to earn the money they deserve, they get more time with their family doing the things they want to do and they make their mum proud!

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6 Responses to Has my customer service gone too far?

  1. Mike Marshall December 11, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    Good story – but although O’Leary didn’t back down, and he should not have, maybe he should have built on the idea of supplying a service (for a fee) at the airport(s) that allows customers to print out their boarding passes… this is the middle ground between over service and getting a bad rep. One of the key reasons Ryanair is still flying is the necessity of it’s service for some people, if another rival stepped in and competed against the flights with better customer service then I think Ryanair would feel the pinch…

    • Simon Chaplin December 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

      Great idea Mike but would people still moan about the Fee at the airport? Would queues form for the machines and then disrupt other passengers? At what point should a low cost provider draw the line. I think my trouble with it is that I (and most of my customers) want to provide a top class service and therefore his reaction is alien to us.

  2. Chantal Wellavize December 11, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    Hmm see I don’t know about this. I had a customer who bought a hi-viz vest. She contacted me and said the zip was stiff and difficult to work. I contacted the manufacturer and asked if we could cut out the middle man and send it directly back to them for a replacement so that the customer wouldn’t be without hiviz for riding for a s long, since I was going to have to wait another week to get more stock in, they agreed. When the vest arrived there, they tested it and had no problems with the zip. So they sent it back to the customer saying there was nothing wrong with it. She wasn’t happy to say the least… I agreed to replace it regardless and did so when she then sent it back to me and the new stock came in. I knew I didn’t have to, but where’s the point in having a disgruntled customer when there’s an easy fix? The customer wasn’t right, the zip did work, but her perception of my business and the testimonial I got as a result was worth it. I’d rather beat the competition on service than just price any day.

    • Simon Chaplin December 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

      I agree Chantal. For me it is always improve the service and not have a disgruntled customer. The question it provoked in me was “Do I sometimes go too far?” And “How far is far enough?”

  3. Graeme Hall December 13, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    Here’s an example:

    We offer something I don’t think anyone else in our sector does – If you book six weeks of dog training classes with us but you’re going away for a week or two, we’ll simply credit your week/s and add them on the end so that you don’t lose out. We can do it because we organise our courses differently.

    Now here’s the thing: We used to say “Just tell us in advance” and a minority of people would take advantage, sometimes swearing blind they had told us the week before when we were equally sure they hadn’t. What did we do? To avoid calling them liars, we always gave them the benefit of the doubt. As yer do.

    So we changed the policy. We kept the good bit and tweaked the wording only slightly: “Just tell us at the time of your booking” – And we asked them to write dates on the booking form. “Is that fair?” we’ll ask them. Of course, everyone thinks it’s incredibly fair.. more than they expected, in fact.

    Now no one takes advantage. If they can’t make it for whatever reason, it goes without repeating that they paid for it but we won’t be crediting them. There’s a rule and if you break it, there’s a consequence, just like Ryanair’s.

    The difference is, it feels FAIR to everyone and no one complains now. There’s no argument. Nobody calls anyone an idiot (on either side!) because no one ever feels the need to.

    If you do it cleverly, great customer service can go hand in hand with getting people to comply with your rules.

    Ask a dog trainer. If you can get my Rottweiler to comply with a few rules happily, you can do customer service. How do you train a Killer Whale, Simon..?


    • Simon Chaplin December 13, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

      What a great idea on how to solve a problem Graham. I remember one of my mentors saying that everyone just wants to be treated fairly. He used to use it in his pricing script. Thanks for the reminder – the rope just got a little higher. Bell Done.

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