Customer Service – Here’s A Step-By-Step Example Of How It Can Turn Around Unexpected Chaos

Because all good posts start with a story…

Recently, I was in Las Palmas to board for a cruise where I was going to be for 2 weeks with 240 other digital nomads and ~1300 ‘normal’ passengers.

I chose to take a taxi since I had a bit more luggage than normal and simply was too lazy to figure out public transport. We were supposed to be there between 11:30-15:30, so my Austrian sense of timeliness kicked in and I arrived at 12:15.

I got out of my taxi and noticed a queue that was way beyond anything I had experienced in my life. Even for a Pitbull + Sean Paul concert, it was a shorter queue and only 1.5h to be in the first row among 10.000+ people. But, that’s apparently another story.

Having calculated with about 30-60min for the check-in, my expectations were soon crushed. Not just was it mid-day and the sun was burning down, but we were standing and didn’t even get water. Some of the other participants had a bit of water left, and so we shared it.

Lesson #1:

…whatever happens that is delaying your process, communicate it. Whether it’s a technical mistake or a key human that isn’t available due to whatever reason, communicate.

Left completely in the dark about how long the check-in would take, we calculated something about 3-4h.


Lesson #2:

…if you’re the organizer and have people waiting in the line in a hot and sunny place, supply water. It barely costs anything and you’ll keep people healthy and hydrated. I.e. you will avoid something like major health concerns as soon as people board and could spread like wildfire.

Being optimistic and wanting to make the best out of every situation, the participants started getting to know each other and look at the situation from the side of humor.


Lesson #3:

…if you’re the organizer of an event and face a challenge – show your face. Show that you care about people and want to keep them informed. If necessary, employ a second person to support you on this level. People take a significant amount of energy from feeling cared for, significant, and that they are being valued.


After a good 2h in the sun, we finally got to the ‘shady’ part, dropped out luggage off, and found the first sign of beverages. I was offered an orange juice, when all I needed was water – sugar was the last thing that I cared about in that moment.


Lesson #4:

…you are supplying water? Great! Make sure that everybody knows about it. If necessary, have people walk through and serve the water or tell the queue about it.


My Austrian sense of organization also had me do the online check-in – only to figure out that there was absolutely no advantage of doing that since apparently everybody anyway queued in the same lines.

After a good 3h, I finally got my boarding key – if I had a non-European passport, another 1h of queuing for emigration would have waited for me.

I entered the ship…completely exhausted…hungry…thirsty…physically AND mentally tired…only to be told that my room wasn’t gonna be ready for another 40min (after I queued about 20min at the reception).


Lesson #5 + #6:

…had no water outside? Have 2-3 people close to the reception with cups of water.

…have your receptionists apologize – even if it wasn’t their fault, but they are the first representative of your company once I hop on board. And, all I want at that time, is understanding and signs that I’m being cared for and valued.


At that point, I was also very interested in an upgrade but I was told that the boarding process needed to be finished first. Another drop of an unfulfilled expectation/need at that moment.

After a moment of being completely devastated, I went to get something to eat and fill up my water shortage. Still left pretty much completely in the dark about what was happening for the rest of the day (except dinner), I went to my room, and had to go a full 3x back to the reception to actually check on an upgrade. The queuing at the reception added another 2h in total – so, 5h standing, being completely exhausted, and headache started to pop up. Shortly feeling my forehead, I knew within seconds that I had suffered a heat/sunstroke and water was now crucial. Having notified that doctor (who wasn’t very happy to see anybody) and the reception, the common response was ‘not my responsibility, can’t do anything’. Pheeeewww….


Lesson #7: 

…again, show that you care. Ask ‘what can we do to make you feel better?’ – ‘Water’ – ‘sure, here’s a full bottle’ (at no charge). Or, offer a massage on the house, or organize something complimentary that shows the guest that you’re at least attempting to make them feel better.


Later, when I had gathered some energy again, I wrote an email to the tour operator. Basically, asking for help and stating that I wasn’t feeling well at all. Not accusing anybody, but really reaching out because I didn’t know anymore what to do. I didn’t get an answer anymore on that day. About noon-ish the next day, I had finally seen the face of the tour operator and addressed the concerns…his response? ‘Not my responsibility, we can’t do anything’.


Lesson #8:

…when people share with you that they are not feeling well, respond to them immediately. If you don’t know in which room they are, write back at least with an understanding response. In most cases, people don’t want to do you any bad – they are reaching out because they have reached a limit and need YOUR help. Not responding makes everything worse and not taking on responsibility doesn’t make them feel safe. You need to step up here and show your leadership skills and that you truly care for your customer’s wellbeing. This is when going the extra mile – at no cost – can win a customer over for a lifetime or drive them and their whole network (a potentially big customer base) away forever.

After a rough night on Day 1, I took Day 2 slowly but felt that my throat wasn’t really happy yet. The next night, I woke up with a sore throat that I haven’t had for a long time. Day 3 started with a painful wakeup and had me cancel all my meetings since I wasn’t able to talk without an extremely hurtful throat. A lot of this could’ve been avoided along the way. Because the last thing you want as a company is a person getting sick because of lose organization and pushing responsibility away.

Besides the 8 lessons, there were, even more, touch points where the company could’ve created a good experience despite the troubles (which can happen). What role models of exceptional customer service do you know? How do you show your customers that you care about them?

What role models of exceptional customer service do you know?

How do you show your customers that you care about them?

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