Customer Service, and how to get it right

I am passionate about customer service.  In fact more so than anything else really.   It is what drives me at work and when I get shoddy customer service I often let companies know about it.  Equally when it is oh so right, I also like companies to know.   Good customer service is rare these days.  In fact any kind of service is a rare thing.  Ask where something is and you get “over there” and a point in the general direction of 80% of the shop.  Or a hand out stretched and a muttered “four Pounds”.   No eye contact, no thank you, no nothing.

So we arrived at Gatwick this morning shortly after 7am to check in for our 10am flight to Barbados.   We approached the Virgin representative who informed us there was an “issue with the flight” and that we would be “put in a pen” and given further information at 8am.     We were welcome in the meantime to go and find a cafe.   Yeah, three kids, nine bags, two unruly trollies.   I don’t think so.

So we sat and waited.

“Were you on the Barbados flight” asked a very smiley lady at 08.01.

“Excuse me but why are you using the past tense?” I muttered

“If you wouldn’t mind following me, we will explain it all to you, but I am sorry your flight is cancelled”.

First thing I did?  Got on Twitter bemoaning the injustice of our fate.   I was’t expecting sympathy for a delay to a three week holiday in Barbados.  In fact I was expecting people to tell me to sod off.   But I got inundated by people saying “oh no” / “what” / “why” / “get compensation” and copying @virginatlantic in on the tweet (as I had done in my original foot stamping tweet).

Heaven only knows what Virgin will think when they read that Twitter feed on Monday and see all these people jumping up and down on behalf of MummyBarrow and her stranded family!

Wail.   Thoughts of having to drive home again, only to get up at 3.30am again tomorrow filled my head.   I couldn’t stand it and tried to contain my belligerence, not wishing to become one of those people that you see on Airport screaming at Stelios.

Family by family we were invited to the check in desk and given the bad news.

Due to a staffing issue our plane was cancelled.  I got ready to say “but but but…. ” and the chap behind the desk calmly continued.    “we have made arrangements for you to stay at the Hilton where lunch and dinner will be provided and you will also receive a voucher for £10 each now, and again tomorrow morning that can be used in any shop at the airport.  Either for food and drink or supplies, newspapers etc”.

I was flumoxed.   I was squaring up for an argument about how annoying this was. Dammit.    The wind was taken straight out of my sales.

Apparently the Hilton is walking distance, no bus shuttle and they would check us in immediately.

We were further advised we could check in for the flight on line at 3pm or come back to the airport and do it, either bringing bags then or in the morning, whichever suited us best.  And assured that the flight would leave tomorrow at 10am.

Then handed our first lot of vouchers and off we went.   Trailing out trollies and wheelie bags behind us.

Off we sulked dragging our heels to the Hilton and formed a queue.

Check in at the hotel was painless and we were given three twin rooms and that was it. Left to our devices for 24 hours.

We did go down to lunch two hours after breakfast to get drinks and whilst there weren’t any (except for big jugs of iced water on the table) the food looked fabulous.   Not just a cold buffet with curled up sandwiches but a full blown hot buffet with a selection of main dishes, lots of salads and big slabs of chocolate cake.

We could indeed check in at 3pm, online.   Again I was gearing up for that not to work (thankfully I had laptop and dongle with me so didnt have to pay the hotel’s exorbitant £15 for 24 hours when 3 connects me for £10 for a month!  That is a whole other post) and start a fight.

Having checked in it was back to Gatwick to spend our £50 of vouchers.   I spotted a Giraffe restaurant and promptly joined the queue.  Our vouchers fully covered the cost of all our breakfasts and various smoothies and coffees.

Now whilst I know that Virgin Atlantic have an obligation to compensate travellers for delayed flights there are ways of doing things and ways of doing things.

This morning was efficient, pleasant and incredibly calm and organised.

Not the best start to a holiday but then it could have been a whole lot worse.  And this time tomorrow it will all be a distant memory.




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  • The Virgin brand is very good for customer service, a friend of mine had problems in a virgin train, he tweeted the problem and within a few minutes had a DM from Virgin apologising.

    He then got a first class seat and a bit of compensation. He was not expecting it but does go to show that they do read and do their best to look after their passengers. As you said a rare thing to have good customer service and it needs to be noted more IMHO more than bad.