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But Seriously Folks… A Tale of Two Customer Service Reps

It was the best of customer service. It was the worst of customer service.

For legal purposes, I’m not going to mention the name of the mega airline to which I am referring in this article, but will disguise their name so you don’t know who I’m talking about.

So, a couple of months ago, I decided to cash in some of my Belta Airmiles that I’ve been accumulating for years, by taking my family on vacation. (See? You have no idea what company I’m talking about.)

I selected my hotel and dates on the Belta website and then hit the magic “purchase” button. Seconds later I realized that I had booked one day too many for the hotel room, which translated into roughly 29,000 wasted Airmiles. I immediately called the Airmiles redemption line and was told by the customer non-service agent that it was too late to change my reservation, that once the “purchase” button was hit, the Airmiles were spent. She told me, “Sorry. You shouldn’t have hit the purchase button until you had the days right.”

Thanks. That’s real helpful. It makes me glad I’ve spent gobs of money with your company over the years.

Not being one to give up easily, I told the agent that I wasn’t asking for her to refund my miles—that I just wanted her to offer some suggestions regarding what I could do—but the agent interrupted me mid-sentence to argue and tell me there was nothing she could do.

May I give you a customer service hint? Never, ever argue with the customer. You can reason with him. You can offer other options, but arguing ultimately leads to the demise of your career well as your business.

I believe this poem I memorized years ago makes my point.

Here lies the body of Old John Quay                                                                                                                             Who died defending his right of way                                                                                                                             His cause was just, his will was strong                                                                                                                           But he’s just as dead as if he were wrong

Translation: You can argue with the customer all you like, but it’ll kill your business.

Did I mention that I fly a lot with Belta Airlines? Why risk ticking off one of your best customers by arguing? It doesn’t matter if you are out of options. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any more ideas for the customer. Work to find a solution! Your customer, not to mention your financial well-being, deserves your best.

Fortunately, my customer service story ends well. My wife suggested that I call the Belta Platinum Service line to see if they could help me. What a great idea! Why couldn’t the Airmiles rep (the person who actually was being paid to help me) have made that suggestion?

When I reached Brad, one of the Platinum Member reps, he listened to me without interrupting as I spilled out my tale of customer service woe. Brad immediately leapt into action to create a solution for me, arranging a conference call with the Airmiles redemption department, who continued to adamantly defend their right to be as unhelpful as possible.

In the end, I wound up keeping the extra day in the hotel room that I didn’t need, but I was refunded the 29,000 Airmiles.

Kudos to Belta’s Premium service line for straightening the whole mess out with expertise and aplomb, but who’s going to refund me for the 30 minutes of my life that I lost in stress and aggravation talking to their Airmiles redemption representative?

Competition is tough these days. If you aren’t taking care of your customers, there are plenty of companies who are willing to. Or, to bring it a little closer to home, if you aren’t willing to protect your income by seeing that your customers are treated right, then someone else will be happy to take your customer, and the money that you would have used to pay for your mortgage, car payment, or vacation.

You alone have the power to decide if you’re going to provide the best of customer service or the worst.

Feel free to reprint this article in your organizational publication. We only ask that you use the following attribution blurb at the bottom of the article: 

©2018 Charles Marshall. Charles Marshall is a nationally known humorous motivational speaker and author. Visit his website at or contact him via email at

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