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An example of what to do when you don’t receive the customer service and communication you expect

I made the decision. I was the parent with two daughters and a son-in-law. We’d eat the free breakfast at the motel. They started serving at 6 a.m. Our flight was at 7:30. We were at the airport hotel. It was a small airport, smaller than the Des Moines airport.

We got to the Delta Airlines desk at 6:35. There was no electronic check in. There was no one behind the desk. Just the marquee listing the 7:30 flight to Atlanta.

One daughter inquired at the next airline’s desk. “Knock on the door behind the Delta counter,” she was told. A woman appeared, listened for a moment and said it was not possible to get on the flight. We all talked to her at once; she asked how many held tickets. She was insistent that no luggage could be checked and we were simply too late. We could see the security check-in; there were several attendants but no customers. It was definitely not the customer service culture we were accustomed to.

The attendent finally asked for the two passports and disappeared behind the door. Some minutes later, she appeared with two tickets but said we couldn’t check luggage. We cleared security quickly and stood in line to board. I confessed to the attendant we’d been too late to check luggage. He said that was not a problem. And in Atlanta, everyone had to take checked bags through security so we found extremely helpful airline folks that showed us which desk to use because we had no tags saying we wanted our luggage to end up in Minneapolis.

The difference in customer service and communication in Panama City and those in Atlanta and Minneapolis was striking. I decided Delta Airlines needed to know. I sent an email with the flight numbers. My point was I knew we were late checking in for an international flight, but it would have been helpful to tell everyone landing in Panama City that you’d better be on time when you fly out because these people love to enforce rules.

Perhaps you’re wondering how civility fits in the story. In ‘The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude’ P.M. Forni devotes about half the book to examples of how to respond to rudeness, to be assertive. My purpose was to help others who would probably have a similar experience.

Delta responds
“I am sorry that in this instance you did not receive the service you expected and should have received from our airport agents. Feedback like yours will help us improve our airport process and customer experience. Please know I will be sharing your comments with our Customer Service and Airport Operations leadership team for internal follow up….As a goodwill gesture, I have issued our $50.00 electronic Transportation Credits each for you and Ms. Clarissa Spicer.”

The response was more than I had hoped for.

Be assertive. It’s what to do when you don’t get the service or communication you expect.


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I'm not sure I would use the word "assertive" to describe what you did simply because the word is often misunderstood. I would describe what you did as making an effective request or registering a responsible complaint. Often we whine, complain and bitch. That kind of response seldom produces the positive response you received.