If you fly JetBlue or Southwest, rent a car from National or Enterprise, stay at a Homewood Suites, a Staybridge Suites or a Drury hotel, a Four Seasons or a Ritz-Carlton, your trip will probably be marked by good customer service.
Those brands on Monday were named Customer Service Champions by J.D. Power, which analyzed feedback from customers about nine industries, including travel. Customers evaluated their experience based on what J.D. Power calls the five Ps: people, presentation, price, process and product.
Customer service, as suggested by this list, doesn't depend on being a high-end property, said Rick Garlick, global practice leader for the travel and hospitality sector for J.D. Power of Westlake Village. These properties (and airlines and rental car companies) "have a very good handle on who they are serving and how to appeal to that customer," Garlick said.
The difference is vision and understanding the end game -- in this case, the customer, Garlick said, telling this story: As the Sistine Chapel was being built, three workers were asked the same question: What do you do? The first said he was laying bricks. The second said he was building a wall. The third said he was building a chapel.
The awards acknowledge excellence, but they don't mean that the companies don't stumble upon occasion.
In February 2007, JetBlue stranded hundreds of passengers for as much as 10 hours at John F. Kennedy International Airport after an ice storm created havoc. Chief Executive David Neeleman apologized, and days later, the airline issued a customer bill of rights. That was well ahead of the Department of Transportation's formal rule announced in late 2009 that allowed fines to be levied in many cases if passengers were stranded more than three hours.
In August 2010, a JetBlue flight attendant is alleged to have cursed at passengers over the public address system and exited the plane by deploying the emergency slide. He was later arrested.
Both incidents are so outside the JetBlue norm that most passengers have been able to overlook them, Garlick said.