Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lesson Learned From 5 Nights In Vegas

My posts have been light the last week with good reason. I was in Las Vegas with some of my best buddies competing in the 2009 Armed Forces Hockey Tournament. Besides winning the tournament and having an unbelievable time with the guys who shared the experience with me, I tried to take some form of learning away from a trip that most only see as a release of pent up adolescent debauchery.

I am not a big gambler. I am not morally opposed to it or anything like that, I just hate to lose. However, both times I have been to Vegas I have really enjoyed it. There is so much going on and there is always action to be seen, heard, felt, smelt, etc. Which leads me to my first Vegas takeaway.

Think In Senses – Vegas is often described as sensory overload. It may be true, but who knows. Regardless, what Casinos and other establishments in Vegas have figured out is that the sensory overload principle is memorable. I think that is why Vegas is so polarizing. People either love it or hate it and the increased stimuli is likely intensify that love or hate position. One day when I was in our casino with some of the boys I couldn’t help but notice that I was tuning into more of my senses. The slots were flashing, Eddie Money was belting out 80’s tunes in the background, I could smell the faint smell of cigarettes coupled with bad perfume and hotdogs, I could feel the cool oxygen enhanced air conditioning against my brow, and I was savoring an ice cold beer. Part of the increased consciousness of all my senses was the heightened stimuli, part was probably that it was a unique extraordinary vacation that had me taking in more of my surroundings than a standard day at the office. Regardless, I started thinking about how much more enjoyable and present one can be living like you are in a casino in Vegas. I am hesitant to make the comparison, but it is a similar parallel to people who have had a second chance at life. Their new found appreciation for life causes them to take increased notice of things that were once mundane and ordinary. Obviously having an external circumstance such as recovering from a disease or illness makes appreciating daily living almost automatic, but a conscious effort to “think in senses” I suspect will likely do the same to some degree. As Immanuel Kant once said “All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.”

Customer Service Is More Important Than Ever – Another experience that is generally synonymous with Vegas is great customer service. Between the most luxurious casinos and hotels, the constant drink service and plentiful restaurants, and the battle to entice you, the customer, into one establishment versus the one next door it is easy for almost anyone in Las Vegas to feel as though they have achieved “high roller” status. Our team got a suite at the Bellagio for the last night. Wow. That is customer service! So if the Bellagio is the furthest point north what is the polar opposite? In this case it was my experience on my return flight home with a company we will call "ABC Airlines". Now in defense of ABC Airlines they have a lot of things going against them being in the industry they are in. Southwest is probably the shining star of an industry that is extremely price sensitive and generally unwilling to pay a premium for enhanced customer service. However, the experience a friend and I had with an “ABC Customer Service Representative” is a perfect example of the power and extreme importance of good customer service in an ever-increasingly connected world. Here is a copy of the formal complaint I submitted to ABC Airlines with the names changed to protect the not so innocent:

While checking in at the ABC ticket counter in the Las Vegas airport I experienced one of the most appalling displays of customer service I have ever had. Eanna the customer service representative who serves as the face of your brand and the customer experience began by greeting the entire line of early morning fliers with a scolding that the customer service agents weren't open yet even though her coworker opened the kiosks for check in. She then proceeded to challenge my friend and I on our active duty military permissive TDY orders. Instead of trying to politely clarify the miscommunication she inferred that two Air Force officers were liars in front of a crowd of fellow travellers and that we were really on leave status and not the permissive TDY status we told her we were on. When asked if she could read the status on both our orders she threatened to not help us if we "got attitude." Her display was not only embarrassing and offputting, it seared into my memory and undoubtedly into the minds of others that this is what the ABC flying experience is about. There is no need to reply for the damage from her display is most certainly done. In the future I would recommend screening more carefully the mouthpiece of the ABC experience.

Now before you start boxing me in as the complainer guy you must know that I am the opposite of that guy. My wife tells stories of the two of us at dinner where I get the wrong meal and don’t speak up to send it back because I feel bad for the waitress. I rarely complain. I am typically part of the majority, sadly, that doesn’t complain and merely chooses to never entertain a business with my business ever again. There are more dangerous people than me however that not only never go back but tell 10 of their friends to never go back either. I see myself as more of the Ghandi of customer service feedback. However, times are changing. I didn’t write this letter and mail it to ABC headquarters via certified mail. I typed it out on my phone minutes after a friend and I experienced the scenario described above. I didn’t have to wait in line at the gate or ask to speak to a manager. I just went to ABC’s website and submitted a complaint. It is easier now than ever for those who, in the past would have gotten home later that night and gotten over the urge to complain, to shoot a quick complaint via their phone to management. Not only that, but now I don’t even have to tell 10 friends about my shoddy experience. I can tweet about it, post it on Facebook, or blog about it. The post is the equivalent to telling the story once, but having it reach a theoretically endless audience. My intent is not to destroy the ABC name by trashing them online, although there are sites that do partake in such activity. You see in today’s world I don’t need to go on a crusade to destroy a business with poor customer service, for with the enhanced connectivity in today's world it is only a matter of time until companies without a customer focused business model destroy their business on their own.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Badski, you keep getting better with age.. Great article. Thanks.