Is that how you’d treat your mother?

Posted by Doc
Oct 01 2011

I’ve been using a car service in Austin between my home and the airport for the past couple of years, in order to avoid leaving my car at the airport a lot. The relationship started out a bit rocky, but then stabilized and has been a very positive experience for quite a while. Until just recently.

Part of the background includes that the owner, a lovely fellow who lives nearby and has a wife and children and with whom I’ve developed a nice relationship, is not always terribly well organized. This past summer, he spent about six weeks out of the country, and had a relatively recently hired driver take care of the business for him while he was gone. The business ran beautifully. In fact, it ran better! The driver, a woman who has been a driver for a while, would send me nice confirmations of each reservation (they have no automated or online system), and would send me a nice reminder confirmation the day before each trip. On the way to the airport, she’d confirm the return trip.

I’d asked the owner to send me invoices/receipts for each trip, but still had to contact him to request one each time. I think this should be automatic, but because I like him so much, I was willing to put up with the minor inconvenience to asking each time.

Each time I arrived in Austin, a driver would be waiting for me in the airport (the nice thing about a small airport), ready to help me with my bags and lead me to the car.

Until the last time. I arrived and there was no driver. I went to wait for my bag to come out, and still no driver. I sent a text message: “At airport. Where is driver?”

The response I received was something along the lines of “Sorry Steven. One car in shop, the other in Dallas. Please take a taxi.”

Now I’m fine with the fact that stuff happens that is outside of our control. I’m fine with having to take a taxi once in a while. What I’m not fine with is that I had to reach out to him to ask. As a customer, my position is that he should have reached out to me as soon as he knew they couldn’t pick me up. I’d have been understanding and we would have moved on.

I’m not feeling understanding. I wrote him a lovely letter saying that I felt this was unacceptable, and that I would not be using his service any longer. He wrote back and said his child had been running a fever, he’d had car problems, and he’d expected that if anyone would understand, I would. And I do. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is bad business to leave a customer standing at the airport without any information.

I thought about his response (“I hope we can continue to be friends”). I reflected on my feelings and my decision. Was I being unreasonable? Was I being closed minded, or lacking understanding?

Then I asked myself this question: Is that how’d you’d treat your mother?

This fellow loves and respects his mother. I cannot imagine him leaving her standing at the airport, wondering whether someone would be picking her up.

That’s how he (and all service providers) should treat their customers. Like their mothers.

That includes respect, attentiveness, consideration…

If my friend’s mother was at the airport, he would have done whatever he needed to to make sure she was picked up.

He left me standing there.

Bad business, unprofessional, and rude.

When deciding how to treat our customers, we should always ask “Is that how I’d treat my mother?” If the answer is “no,” then do something different.


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