Great service from a caring company creates a loyal customer

I’ve decided that other companies can learn a thing or two about customer service from Porter Airlines.

Porter is doing so many things right. They offer reasonably priced flights and a number of little classy touches (that used to be the norm, but are now the exception) such as: more leg room, real glasses to drink from, free wine and beer in-flight, free premium snacks in-flight and in the free lounge (I am now addicted to Terra Chips thanks to Porter), and free wi-fi in the lounge.

In addition to a good product at a good price, every time that I’ve talked to a Porter employee, I’ve left with a good feeling about the company. I feel like they care about me and my business.

To illustrate, I recently missed my early morning flight to Ottawa, and it was completely my fault. (Those who know me know that I don’t miss flights. I am organized to a fault, yet somehow on that morning, I suffered an organizational lapse.)

I jolted out of bed late and called Porter’s customer-service line. I wasn’t even placed on hold. My call was instantly taken by Amir, who non-judgmentally told me my options. Unprompted, he even spoke to his manager and waived one of the potential fees for me. I thanked him for his help, and he apologize for not being able to help me more (as if it was his fault that I had not set my alarm properly or had shut it off when it did sound in the morning.)

The resulting Facebook post that morning was: “Dropped my laptop in November, missed my early morning flight this morning. Damage to wallet, over $700; damage to pride having no one else to blame for either incident — priceless.”

(While you may believe that we writers make oodles of cash and could easily afford rebooking fees, you would be incorrect. You may even think that we get the paper for free as a perk of the job, but again, you would be mistaken.)

I decided to take my chances on standby, which was the cheaper option.

At the airport, I honestly admitted my situation to Amy. She was sympathetic and kind. I handed her my boarding passes and photo ID, and pulled out my Visa card for the extra charges. Within minutes, following some pleasant banter, she handed me my new boarding cards and said, “You’re all set.” I looked at my Visa card, and back at her, and I couldn’t help but think of the commercial of the man who holds up traffic to move a caterpillar off the road: “If more people did kind things they wouldn’t stand out so much.” I thanked her repetitively as the rush of gratitude overtook my bewilderment.

(Sadly, I hesitated to write her name, worried that management might chastise her in some way, but I am counting on Porter to be the caring company that I believe them to be. I hope she might even be rewarded for creating a loyal customer.)

Contrast this to my recent online purchase of a video game. I found a great Black Friday deal, hit the “buy now” button, received my order confirmation and went to bed happy. The next morning, I woke up to find one e-mail in my mailbox stating that my order was on back order, and a second email informing me they had cancelled my order.

This was not the “best buy” that I had ever made.

I called customer service and was informed that they had the right to cancel it, it was in the terms to which I had agreed. Now, the commercial of the kid asking for ice cream but being told that that was only for new-er customers hit me.

Screwed by the fine print, I asked to speak to a supervisor. She told me she was one, and I could contact the corporate office if I liked; so I asked to be transferred. She told me I had to e-mail them and she could tell me where to go on the web-site (I certainly wanted to tell her where to go.) I told her that I felt this was outrageous, and a unique occurrence for me as an experienced online shopper. She asked if there was anything else she could do (other than honouring my confirmed purchase), and I answered, “Yes, you can find another customer.”

In a weak economy, customer service can make the difference between a customer buying solely based on price and one willing to spend a little extra to feel as though their business matters.

Suffice it to say that I will make an active effort to avoid that certain retailer, and will go out my way to give Porter Airlines my business again.

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