Platinum Service
Illustration by Irene Hoffman

I travel often, and so I am generally at one of the highest status levels for the airline I fly, the hotel where I sleep, or the rental car that I drive. Occasionally, though, I need to use a travel company that does not know me very well, and I get the “standard customer” treatment. While it is not ideal, I like to view these times as a way to “try out” someone new to see if there is a better provider out there.

I had one of those experiences recently with a rental car company. I had to get in the “no status” line, which had only one customer in it at that moment who was being served by the one agent assigned to us schlubs. As I waited, I watched the “special person” line, which had no customers and two agents. And that is how it stayed for the duration of my 15-minute wait. Instead of an offer to help me out, one of the agents elected to put her head down and do paperwork, and the other, after five minutes of doing very little, decided to go outside and do even less.

Contact centers, of course, often do the same thing. It may not be as visible, but we segment our customers and provide better service for those who have proven loyalty in the past. On one level, I get it: Resources are limited, and those spending more with us deserve the best service. But on the other level, I absolutely do not get it. If service is such an important differentiator, how will I ever decide to stick with you long enough to reach platinum status when I am being sent to the minimally trained, communicatively challenged, vastly understaffed queue?

It’s a chicken-or-egg question: Do customers need to prove themselves worthy in order to get our best service, or do we provide everyone with great service so that customers are motivated to prove themselves worthy?