In the Trenches: Team vs. Individual Customer Service

BrettSnyder by Brett Snyder on February 26, 2014
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In the early days of Cranky Concierge, I personally handled all client requests for flight-planning assistance. As the company grew, we shifted to a team-based approach, so we could provide faster service. However, I’ve begun to wonder whether this is truly the best way to handle booking travel.

Let me explain. Ever since we started having multiple staffers plan flights, we’ve asked our clients to make sure to “reply all” to our emails and also to include our general address in their correspondence. That way, any one of us can easily pick up where another team member left off — and give clients the service they seek without keeping them waiting.

I’m in and out of the office a lot during the day, so I’m not always sitting at my desk ready to book a flight. Kevin is available more frequently, but he’s usually done for the day around 3 p.m. Pacific time. Clients on the West Coast may not want to wait until the next morning for assistance. After that, Mike comes in, but if he’s helping someone who doesn’t “reply all,” the client won’t get a follow-up response until the next afternoon.

Working as a team, we can make sure clients who email us anytime during business hours get help as quickly as possible. That’s great for some customers, but others don’t like changing horses mid-race: If they’ve started working through issues with one employee, they like to stay with that person. Of course, they also want a speedy response.

Since I’ve yet to hire any superhumans (though sometimes they certainly appear that way), we can’t make both things happen. People can’t work 24/7. So, it leaves us in a tough spot trying to figure out what clients would most prefer: fast service or personal attention.

I suppose we could let them self-select. If they don’t “reply all,” then they are going to have to wait for the person they emailed directly to help. If they do “reply all,” we respond quickly. But, generally, when customers don’t “reply all,” it’s because they simply forgot or hit the wrong button. Therefore, it isn’t indicative of their actual preference.

I could send out an email survey to existing clients, but my hunch is the team concept is best. Am I off-base?

BrettSnyder

Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.

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