Canadian Rental Service

At Your Service: Awarding mediocrity

By Russ Dantu   

Features Business Intelligence business

Winning an award for customer service is always nice, but sometimes you wonder how these things are given out. I remember, years ago, a customer of mine nominated me for a Consumer Choice Award for Business Excellence.

I was thrilled that they thought my customer service was at that level. Shortly after, I received a call from the company that handles all the details of these nominations. What was really sad was that it felt like a sneaky sales call where this company was really just trying to sell you something. Their first move was to offer me the award if I used their “cutting edge marketing initatives” to attract more nominations. I turned down the award instead, but had to put up with marketing calls for the next year asking me to nominate other businesses. I guess that was their way of obtaining a slightly warm lead.

So why do I bring this up? Well, I just received an email from Air Canada bragging how they have just won Best Airline in North America for the eighth time in the last 10 years by Skytrax, “an independent research firm that uses over 41 different aspects of customer satisfaction to rank airlines’ product and service standards.” I’d sure like to see these 41-plus aspects. I struggle to say much of anything good about Air Canada and a lot of people I know also struggle with them.

I just flew them again this past weekend and their “service” was adequate at best. I almost always fly WestJet over Air Canada for domestic flights. My wife travels a fair bit, too. On the past four Air Canada flights my wife has taken they have lost her luggage twice and postponed flights twice. She even said to them on a flight from Calgary to Vancouver, “Please don’t lose my luggage like you did last time. It’s a one-hour flight and I really need my bag to arrive with me.” They lost the luggage and it had to be sent on a later flight. The last postponement was less than an hour before her flight, after she checked her baggage through, and her Air Canada app still to this day never showed the postponement. It meant she missed a connecting seaplane flight, only recovered 50 per cent of the fare and had to pay for a new flight. When she went to the Air Canada “customer service” desk, she was expecting some compassion, some empathy, some help. She got this: “Well, sometimes these things happen. There is nothing we can do to help you now.” Less than an hour before her flight was scheduled to leave and you can do nothing? There was a WestJet flight that had seats on it but they wouldn’t work with my wife on that. They offered no compensation for their error, no “Sorry for the inconvenience,” or even, “I can see that this is very frustrating for you and I would be frustrated, too.” All she got was someone working there who didn’t seem to like their job and didn’t appear to care about the customer. They offered no true customer service.

Now, we all know that the more you fly, the bigger the chance that something will go wrong. It’s inevitable. What we do as companies when things go wrong is paramount in our customers’ eyes. That is what we can control.

When things go wrong, there are a few simple steps to follow. Apologize for the inconvenience the situation has caused even if you are not in the wrong. Listen intently to the customer’s problem and write down notes, if necessary. Repeat back the customer’s complaint to be clear you have all the facts correct and then ask more clarifying questions if needed. Do your best to solve the issue as quickly and efficiently as possible. Let your service representative bring in a supervisor if they are not authorized to solve the problem in a satisfactory manner to the customer. Compensate if you are at fault. It doesn’t always have to be a large form of compensation; give what you feel is warranted for the situation. Thank the customer and apologize again when problem is solved to the best of your ability.

Who knows? If you look after your customers well to start with and even better when things go wrong, you too may end up with an award.  

Russ Dantu is a 30-year veteran of the rental industry and has been delivering workshops, seminars and keynotes on customer service for over 15 years. For more information, visit or email

Print this page


Stories continue below