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Customer Service and Freelance Writers

customer serviceI don’t understand why excellent customer service seems to be a mystery to many companies. This came strongly to mind when I arranged and paid for an airport shuttle to pick me up at 4 am for a 6 am flight. It was a new company and I found them through their perky almost navy blue powered by CNG which I saw on the freeway and followed most of the way home.

I was able to find their website not by their name, which is, imo, awkward, but by their slogan. There’s a marketing lesson there. Their website looked good and it was easy to schedule the rides to and from the airport. I figured I was all set.

Cancelled at midnight

I had set an alarm to wake up at 3 am, giving me plenty of time for the final packing, a good cup of coffee and a play session with the cats if they wanted to get up that early. I hardly slept and was up by 2:30 which also gave me time to check my email.

I was startled to see an email from the shuttle company sent around midnight with a subject line “Your Shuttle Reservation has been cancelled.” I opened it and sure enough a brief email saying:

Dear Anne Wayman – Your transportation reservation for pickup at 2721 Highland Ave, National City, CA 91950, USA at 02/10/2016 04:00 AM was cancelled at 02/10/2016 12:24 AM.
Your credit card charge was refunded in full.
We hope to see you again soon.

They hope to see me soon? 

I immediately emailed to cancel the ride home after my trip. After a few minutes of teeth gnashing I realized I could drive to the airport and use long term parking for about the same price.

Huge missed opportunity

But the shuttle company! Here’s a new company, presumably wanting to grow, yet they blew me off even though they’d been paid. I don’t get it. They’ve created a disgruntled customer with a pretty decent reputation on Yelp. They could have turned me into a raving fan pretty simply by:

  • Hiring another shuttle company to pick me up. We’ve got plenty in San Diego
  • Hiring Lyft or Uber to pick me up.
  • Sending the president or the person in charge of San Diego to pick me up.

Even an explanation might have helped.

I sent them an email to that effect and they’re ignoring me, again.

What kind of customer service do you offer?

First, think about the kind of customer service you offer to your writing clients. Are you easily reached? Do you respond quickly? Do you work hard to correct the mistakes that are bound to happen in any business? Are you genuinely interested in your customers? Do you truly try to be of service?

Those last two questions are probably the key. It’s what I do and it’s what the top freelance writers I know do. It’s also what companies like Trader Joe’s, Southwest Airlines, Costco and others do. Why more don’t is a total mystery to me. It’s not rocket science.

We writers can encourage good customer service

Because we’re writers we are in a position to encourage good customer service. Usually my approach is to compliment people when they give me good service. I often ask for their supervisor so I can report what a good job their rep did. That always makes me feel good as well as making both the cs agent and their supervisor feel good. That’s three people! Not bad. I also send emails when the customer service has been great.

We can also write articles, twitter posts, etc. about good customer service, and occasionally about bad customer service. Writing this piece is making me feel better – which isn’t a bad thing.

Can we change the world? Maybe a little bit.

Why haven’t I named the company?

I haven’t named the company because I realized my motivation is to ‘make them wrong.’ I want to feel righteous in my anger and that’s never a good place to act on I’ve learned. OTOH, if you’re looking for a shuttle service and are in the southern California area, email me and I’ll tell you so you can avoid the problems I’ve had.

Thanks for listening!

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Write well and often,


{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Most freelance writing is done remotely, and being a remote worker means paying extra attention to your written communications. A big part of good customer service is making good use of courtesy notes. If someone doesn’t hear from you when they expect to, it’s so easy for them to start dreaming up scenarios where maybe you were hit by a bus or maybe you ran off to Mexico with the downpayment on a 100 hour project. When you get an email from a client that’s going to require some amount of attention in reply, and you’re just too busy to attend to it immediately, I think it’s a good idea to spend 40 seconds immediately on a quick note to acknowledge their correspondence and explain when you’ll attend to it. There’s a huge difference between letting someone know that you will take 2 days to get to their correspondence, and just leaving them for 2 days wondering when or if they’re going to hear from you.

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