Developing An Eye For Detail To Bolster Customer Service Quality

I flew Business Class on one of the world’s largest airlines and found myself in a chair padded for pleasure. Clearly this seat was made to improve customer service quality.

This up-to-date seating boasts an impressive list of features: reclining back with adjustable lumbar support, extended leg rest, electronic “rolling massage,” adjustable headrest with padded wings, two reading lights, a power point for laptop computers, a telephone, Internet connection, special built-in pouch for personal effects, large video screen with 14 movie selections, 19 audio channels, and noise-canceling headphones.

I was so impressed with the customer service quality, I decided to write some positive feedback for the airline on the spot. I asked the friendly cabin crew member for a “comment card” and a pen.

She handed me a pen from her pocket that read “Narita Tokyu Hotel” and said she would look for a comment card, but wasn’t sure if there were any aboard.

She returned a few moments later and handed me an airline writing kit with three postcards, two envelopes, and two sheets of airline stationery in an attractive blue folder. And she confirmed there were no comment cards aboard.

I thought that was odd, considering the overall customer service quality. Simple comment cards are cheap to print, easy to use, and fast to hand out and collect. They can improve customer service quality by giving the airline frank feedback. The fancy writing kit costs the airline much more, yet it doesn’t help solicit customer feedback and doesn’t do much to improve customer service quality.

Stranger still was the pen: “‘Narita Tokyu Hotel?”

“Don’t you have any airline pens?” I asked.

She blushed and replied “No. We used to carry them, but we don’t any more. But passengers still ask us for pens all the time, so we take extra ones from the hotels where we stay.”

“Really?!” I laughed. “The airline installed these great new seats and hands out fancy writing kits, but doesn’t carry inexpensive plastic pens on board for passenger use?”

She grinned sheepishly and brought me a sample of what the airline does provide for Business Class passengers who wish to write: a small golf pencil. About three inches long, these little blue pencils are sharp as a tack and emblazoned with the airline’s name and logo in white.

I am sitting in a world-class airline seat. I can get a classy, expensive writing kit just by asking. But if I seek a ballpoint pen, the airline gives me a tiny pencil made for golf.

A cost-savings effort was to blame for this unusual oversight in customer service quality. The cabin crew explained that too many passengers kept asking for the pens.

How penny foolish! When a Business Class customer takes an airline pen home, that airline’s name is seen every time the pen is used. An average pen lasts hundreds if not thousands of uses. In advertising terms, that’s a lot of brand name impressions on the existing customer base. The simple convenience is also a great way to improve customer service quality for very little money.

But who gets all those valuable advertising impressions in this airline’s case? The Narita Tokyu Hotel!

Well, not quite. Another hour into the flight the same cabin crew member came back with a shy request, “Excuse me, Mr. Kaufman. Can I have the pen back, please? Another passenger needs it…”

Key Learning Point For Customer Service Quality

Be sure your products keep pace with industry improvements to improve customer service quality. Other airlines must take note of this airline’s terrific seating. For long-haul flights in upper-class travel (where airline profits are made), seat enhancements do make a difference on customer service quality. But don’t neglect the little things that make a difference to your customers.

Action Steps For Customer Service Quality

Examine your product improvement budgets. Where are you spending? Where are you saving money? Will your customers notice the impact? Keep customer service quality in mind the whole way.


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Copyright, Ron Kaufman. Used with permission. Ron Kaufman is the world’s leading educator and motivator for upgrading customer service and uplifting service culture. He is author of the bestselling “Uplifting Service” book and founder of Uplifting Service. To enjoy more customer service training and service culture articles, visit

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