What a Trip to LAX Taught Me About Customer ServiceThere's nothing like business travel to get you thinking about how to improve customer service.

Here are my takeaways from a recent flight home to Orange County, Calif., from the East Coast. Whether you own a landscaping business or sandwich shop, maybe you can help turn my lemons into lemonade.

Communicate issues early and often. When my connecting flight to Orange County finally lifted off, many of my fellow passengers and I did the math and realized we’d arrive at John Wayne Airport at least 90 minutes after its 11 p.m. curfew. I’m assuming the captain also knew that our flight would have to be diverted (50 miles north) to LAX. A word to passengers before takeoff -- while grounded 60-plus minutes for maintenance -- would have enabled us to alert family or friends picking us up on the West Coast so they wouldn’t be waiting around extra hours for us to arrive by bus from LAX.

If you need to apologize for something, be sincere. About 20 minutes before landing at a different airport, we received the standard: “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused,” delivered in monotone voice from the cockpit. Hardly an apology delivered by a business with empathy for its customers.

Follow through. When we did arrive at LAX, there was no airline representative to greet us or direct us to baggage claim and the bus for the 90-minute ride to John Wayne Airport. No explanation -- just a lot of confused passengers wandering around one of the largest airports in the world, some taking it upon themselves to help elderly fellow travelers with their luggage.

Ensure your customers get what they pay for. Weeks before my trip, I splurged a little and paid close to $100 extra for what the airline call Economy Plus seating. On the second leg of the flight, I was told that the airline had double-booked my seat, relegating me to a middle seat in the back of the aircraft. Wandering up to “my” area during the flight, I observed at least one uniformed airline employee sitting in the “overbooked” Economy Plus section. If this were a restaurant or any other business, there’s no way a considerate owner would put his employees ahead of paying customers. 

What customer service lessons have you taken to heart from your business travel? Share your thoughts below and respond to other readers' comments below.