Sunday, March 1, 2009

Keep Shopping Its The Best Way To Beat Lousy Customer Service

Writen by Dr. Gary S. Goodman

My vacation could have been a comedy of errors, because nearly all of my initial plans didn't pan out. Yet, it ended up being the best all around sojourn I've ever had.

How did this happen? I'll tell you in a minute. First, let me mention some of the crucial adjustments I made.

I booked a hotel that had all of the right amenities, including a killer ocean view, but when I called later on, to check about a discount, I dealt with a real bozo. Instantly, I hit the Web, searched for alternatives—just in case—and I found a substitute at half the price, also with a killer ocean view.

That phone call saved me the equivalent of all of my meals during the entire trip.

Not bad!

I asked the airline agent to find me the longest legroom, and I ended up with the shortest.

Instantly, I asked to deplane to see what the gate agent could arrange. Momentarily, I was relocated in a section where I could spread out across three seats with my laptop and other tools.

The impact was that I wrote an article during my five hour flight that wouldn't have emerged from my cramped seating arrangement.

My watch's stem broke on the plane ride over. Upon arrival, I called the biggest ad in the Yellow Pages, and was informed by the stuffy manager that my timepiece would take three weeks to repair, and that I should wait to schlep it to a special service center in Beverly Hills, upon my return. Undaunted, I called another ad. The owner said, "Bring it over, and we'll repair it in three hours."

A half hour later, I entered his shop and he said, "You're lucky. I have three repair specialists working right now. Go have a coffee, and your watch will be ready in an hour. I'll save you a cab ride."

A one-day tour that I initially chose was oversold. Improvising, I picked an alternative, which ended up being spectacular, with a 200 foot waterfall and an unspoiled beach. Cool.

On a free day I decided to rent a car, and the first outfit I called gave me fits. They didn't have the model I wanted and they were going to force me to make separate calls to discover my frequent renter number and couldn't tell me if having it would give me a discount. When I asked for a supervisor, my call was mysteriously disconnected.

Two seconds later, I called a competitor. It had a red T-Bird convertible at a great rate with no drop-off charge for taking it to the airport. Also, I could pick it up 100 paces from my hotel, instead of having to cab it to the other outfit's inconvenient location. Wow, what a difference!

I could go on, reciting adjustment after adjustment, each of which ushered in economies, and added pleasures to my trip. Looking back, I can see that receiving poor initial service can be a godsend. Instead of being cursed, better karma is around the corner if we'll only open ourselves to it.

Here's what we can all do to improve our results as consumers:

(1) At the first hint of dissatisfaction, be willing to shop the competition. Don't ever accept as conclusive the opinion of a single source.

(2) Don't bother arguing with bozos. A tenth of the energy you'd expend can be more productively channeled into finding their replacement.

(3) Trust your instincts as a consumer. If you think they're incompetent, unconcerned, too expensive, or just a bad temperamental fit, be willing to walk—make that run, to another provider.

(4) Treat bad news as good news. If you look hard enough, you can find the silver lining in any problem.

(5) Be flexible, and be willing to change plans as often as necessary, to improve your results and satisfaction.

Lots of companies seek our loyalty and expect to receive it by throwing a few frequent flyer miles or occasional discounts our way. Look beyond these baubles. If you're earning them by forgoing the best prices and benefits, you're simply rewarding them for their complacency.

Fortune favors the bold—remember this when you're about to plunk down your money for a vacation or for anything else. When you encounter lousy service, keep shopping! With a little effort and a few adjustments, you too, can transform poor service into a great adventure!

Dr. Gary S. Goodman, President of, is a popular keynote speaker, management consultant, and seminar leader and the best-selling author of 12 books, including Reach Out & Sell Someone® and Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, worldwide. A Ph.D. from USC's Annenberg School, Gary offers programs through UCLA Extension and numerous universities, trade associations, and other organizations in the United States and abroad. He is headquartered in Glendale, California, and he can be reached at (818) 243-7338 or at:

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