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State of Service

Don't ruin your reputation--provide top-notch customer service to help your business thrive.

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This story appears in the May 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

A few days before Christmas, I was scheduled to fly on the airline I have nearly 2 million frequent-flier miles with. Bad weather in one of the airline's hub cities had caused a horrendous backup, and there was such a mess at the airline's counters that it soon became obvious that most of us standing in line would miss our flights. After talking to the person at the counter three times, I finally asked to talk to a supervisor--one never appeared, and I missed my flight. I contacted customer service and was told it was my responsibility to make sure I got on the plane. (Should I have rushed the counter? I still wonder what I could have done without getting arrested.) I sent another e-mail to someone who I thought was a different customer-service person and received a reply which began, "I guess you didn't like my answer . . . ."

Several weeks ago, articles editor Charlotte Jensen was eating out with a friend when she found a rather large, dead roach in her salad. Not wanting to make a fuss, she told the server, who removed the plate. When he returned with the dinner plates, he lied and told Char it was a root, not a bug. Unable to finish her meal, she asked for the check. When he brought the bill (the restaurant comped the salad but charged for the rest of the meal, though much of it remained uneaten) he said, "I'm so, so sorry. At least it was dead. You know we cannot control everything here."

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