Do You Know The Best Way To Recover From A Service Failure In Your Business?

A friend of mine likes to fly up the pointy end of the plane.

And yes, he knows that it is the most expensive real estate on the planet up there.

He knows that when he flies up front that he is subsidising the cheaper fares of those who travel at the rear of the plane in the narrow seats, and he’s happy with the benevolence he displays so that those at the back do not have to pay more.

And he is also aware that the front of the plane and the back of the plane reach their destination airport at about the same time, give or take a few seconds.

And I say if he chooses to travel in that sorbet of luxury, well, good luck to him.

After all, you can’t take it with you.

Now you’d expect that as a platinum frequent flyer as well that my friend might receive some thanks for his loyalty?

After all, the cabin crew would have his profile, wouldn’t they?

Here’s what happened:

On a recent interstate trip, my friend was carrying a suit in a suit bag. He was also wearing a blazer.

On boarding the aircraft, my friend handed his suit bag to the flight attendant in his cabin, and also had his jacket taken and hung for him.

On both the forward and returning journeys.

On both occasions, my friend’s jacket was returned to him before descent, as is usual and customary.

On the outbound flight, my friend was handed his suit bag as he disembarked from the plane.

However, while waiting at the carousel for the rest of his luggage, my friend was approached by another traveler and was asked to “exchange” suit bags as the flight crew had given each of them the other’s suit bag.

An honest mistake, you would say?

And no harm done…

But what would have happened had this exchange not taken place at the airport?

The end result was a good one, but the engineering of that result by the airline left a significant question in my friend’s mind as to whether the process was maybe a little haphazard?

On the return leg, my friend disembarked the plane and picked up his luggage from the carousel before he realised that the flight crew had not given him his suit bag.

And so on this occasion, my friend had to go back inside the airport and inside through security to see if he could collect his suit.

My friend ended up actually on board his previous plane as it was boarding for its next journey, trying to locate his suit bag… the head steward told my friend that they had given his suit bag to crew at the gate of the boarding lounge, and that if the suit bag was not with them then it would be downstairs at the baggage counter…my friend was getting very frustrated…. Searching for the missing suit bag while his wife and his luggage were already waiting out front with a taxi.

Why on earth had the flight attendant not had the suit bag ready for my friend as he was disembarking?

My friend believed, and rightly so, that for the price that he paid for his pointy end business class ticket that he had purchased not simply a better seat on the plane but he had purchased a better form of attention.

My friend felt that his ticket price demanded a better form of experience.

And he did not receive that experience.

When my friend located his suit bag with the ground staff, they told him that they could have located him, if only he had had his name on the suit bag.

And that it was my friend’s fault for not having a labeled suit bag.

My friend explained to the ground staff that in his haste to de-plane, and to gather his own onboard luggage from above seats behind him, that he had forgotten to ask for the suit bag.

My friend asked what he should have done, because the safety gear was housed above his seat, which meant that my friend had to be conscious of time when gathering his onboard luggage.

What does this all mean?

My friend felt that the airline, Qantas, in these two instances, had failed him.

For the price that my friend paid for a front of plane experience, he was not delivered a front of plane experience.

At no time did anyone from Qantas offer an apology to my friend for either of the two slip-ups that they had allowed to happen.

In the first instance, my friend saw nobody at all from the airline, just the fellow traveller.

In the second instance, neither the stewardess at the gate, nor the steward on the plane, nor the ground staff had offered any form of apology to my friend for inconveniencing him.

Now my friend understands that this is indeed a “first world problem”.

And maybe he was being a little bit precious….

But, and it’s a big but, if Qantas is going to be offering a high ticket option then they need to make sure that they give a high ticket service and have in place a world class service recovery process.

Both of these instances could well have ended up with my friend and his suit being separated permanently.

And that outcome is unacceptable for a ticket price that is somewhere around five times the ticket price for a seat in the back of the plane.

Mary Kay Ash said that most people are walking around with an invisible sign around their necks that reads:


At no time did my friend ever feel that Qantas was doing this for the price that he paid them to travel in the more important seats.

If customers don’t feel that they are valued, then they will go elsewhere with their business.

The number one reason that customers leave a business is apathy, or perceived apathy from employees in that business towards those valued customers.

Maybe my friend does need to travel lighter on his flights when it comes to carry-on baggage?

But for the price that Qantas charge to sit in the front of their planes, they need to make the experience memorable, for the service and the service recovery, and not for the service failures.

How are your systems in your business?

Do you have a service recovery protocol that makes the process of recovering from all of your service defects even better than if the defects had never happened in the first place?


My next public speaking presentation showing Dentists how to grow their Dental practices will be in Melbourne Australia on Saturday 1 April 2017 with Jayne Bandy and Wolfgang Hofbauer.

For more information and to secure your seat click this link here.


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The Ultimate Patient Experience is a simple to build complete Customer Service system in itself that I developed that allowed me to create an extraordinary dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb. If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report.

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