Is it time for major bus companies to send drivers to charm school?
From time to time, companies decide to send their workers to "charm school" to learn how to interact positively with customers. In the world of travel, there's a strong history of this type of staff education. In February of 2010, for example, Delta reacted to horrible customer service ratings by sending all of its consumer-facing employees to charm school. Just a month earlier, the city of New Delhi started signing cabbies up for charm school in advance of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. And as far back as 1991, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey created a program called "Airport Nice" to train airport employees on how to greet arriving travelers in a more pleasant manner.
Customer service education is not a bad idea. Often times, a company's ability to retain its clientele has as much to do with the level of service it provides as it does with the products it offers.
I'm a veteran bus rider. I have friends across the Eastern Seaboard and I frequently find myself four-wheeling it between cities. Sometimes, the bus drivers are kind and considerate, but other times they're downright surly. I'll never forget the bus ride I took where the driver ranted for at least 15 minutes about how cell phone calls were not allowed. He threatened to leave offenders on the side of the road. When I tried to call my family to let them know when I would be arriving, he screamed at me so forcefully that I wouldn't be surprised if he scared passing automobilists.
Then there was the driver who, in an effort to be helpful, I'm sure, gave a 30-minute welcome spiel on an ear-shatteringly loud sound system that covered everything from the location of the bus bathrooms (in the back of the bus) to the current weather (sunny) to polite requests to keep phone conversations to a minimum. He reminded us (repeatedly) to let him know if we needed anything (change in temperature, rest stop, questions about our destination). He encouraged us to get to know our seatmates. He told us what he had had for dinner. He assured us he was well rested. And he did this every time he picked up new passengers—as this was a local bus, this happened five times. It was thoughtful, but it was too much. Even my iPod couldn't drown him out. I arrived in New York with a headache and an eye twitch.
On my most recent bus trip, the driver, while kind and jovial, showed a complete lack of filter by declaring loudly into her walkie talkie "oh yeah, I'm back on the road now. My lawsuit is pending, they said they saw me at the bar but they didn't. I was just dizzy."
Now, I'm not saying that her lawsuit was justified or not or even questioning whether or not she was drinking—I have no way to know. But I do know that that was an unsettling conversation to overhear just as we were taking off down the highway. I texted the conversation to a friend who promptly responded "wow, she must be wasted—buckle up!" Not funny. (For the record, we made it to New York without incident.)
I reached out to Greyhound to see what kind of customer service training their staff must go through and they responded with this note:
Customer service training is an integral part of the Greyhound driver education program. New Greyhound drivers receive extensive customer service training as part of their orientation and driver school. The training focuses on foundational service skills that build customer loyalty and help drivers work through challenges if they occur. In addition, drivers are trained on wheelchair and special needs safety, as well as how to assist passengers with different abilities. Once students complete training school, they return to their home terminals for additional training under the direction of their certified instructor.
I'm not sure what exactly that customer service training entails and, to be fair, the majority of bus drivers I've experienced on Greyhound are perfectly pleasant. But the exceptions have been so outrageous that they're blog-post worthy.
It's possible that as a frequent bus traveler I am not only more exposed to situations, I'm also more sensitive. But I'm wondering—has anyone had a similar experience?
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A reader has a question about the U.S. government requiring airlines to give fatter payouts to passengers who get involuntarily "bumped" from oversold flights. As Budget Travel recently reported in its story, "8 Common Air Travel Snafus (And How to Beat Them)," the DOT has increased by hundreds of dollars how much airlines have to pay passengers for bumping them off an oversold flight against their wishes. Starting this August, most bumped domestic fliers who get to their destination more than an hour late than planned must receive double their one-way fare back, up to about $650 in cash. Delayed much longer? You'll get four times your one-way fare, up to $1,300. But in most cases, you'll have to go to an airport customer desk and demand what you're owed. Here's the great question about this from Romeo Raabe in Green Bay, WI: In this and many other articles about being bumped off an airline, I've read to only take cash. Please define "cash". Does this mean I must demand cash, greenbacks, US currency? Or a check, in my hand, or promise of being mailed to me? What, exactly, is cash? I'm sure other readers wonder about this too.The answer: You want cash—as in, the green stuff you hold in your hand. (While a paper check or direct deposit would probably also be legal in theory, no airline we know of gives its airport service agents the power to write checks or issue direct deposits in its name. Cold, hard cash is what you want and what you can reasonably expect.) Last year, 59,250 passengers qualified to receive cash compensation by being bumped against their will. Airlines rarely paid out cash to these fliers, though. They instead wooed passengers with voucher credits for future flights. The problem with these flight vouchers—which work like gift certificates—is that they come with more restrictions than cash. There may be an expiration date on the flight voucher. You'll have to use the voucher on that specific airline—even if the lowest fares for your upcoming trips may be on other airlines. You'll probably have to make the reservation over the phone if you're redeeming a voucher. In short, how sure can you be that you'll be flying this particular airline again soon enough to be able to use the voucher? Rather than worry, just ask for cash. Cash is specifically what the DOT says in its rules that airlines must be able to pay out. (For international trips, an airline must get you to your destination within one hour of your scheduled arrival time. After that, it must pay you compensation of double your one way fare up to $650. For delayed arrivals longer than four hours, you are entitled to four times the value of your one-way ticket up to $1,300.) MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 8 Common Air Travel Snafus (And How to Beat Them) New Budget Airline Vision Delivers Cheap Fares Quiz: Can You Spot the Travel Rip-off?
Gamble on a flight from New York to the Hamptons
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Travelzoo now offers local vacation deals
Since launching the program last fall, Travelzoo has been expanding its Local Deals program. As of this week, the company now touts deep discounts on restaurant, spa, and (increasingly) hotel offers in 75 locations worldwide. You can sign up to receive alerts for offers within a two-hour drive or short flight from your hometown. (These alerts differ from the company's famous Top 20 travel-deal e-mail newsletters.) For any offer, you have a few days to buy vouchers that can be later redeemed at the local store. You can use Travelzoo Local Deals in two ways: To keep track of discounts near you to plan a "staycation," or to track deals at a location you're planning to visit. The free program works similarly to Groupon's upcoming vacation deal service, but the deals tend to be on higher-end products and services. Recent sample deal: The Chelsea in Atlantic City was available for one night with a three-course dinner for two at its well regarded restaurant and access to the spa for $189 midweek or $299 on Fridays. That was a savings of more than 30 percent off of what I found when I attempted to book the components of the deal separately. Travelzoo has about 26 23 million newsletter subscribers in the US and Europe. Has anyone tried the Local Deals service and had good results? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Open secret websites for booking hotels Eight ways to save when booking hotel rooms What to do when you lose all of your digital photos
Apple plans to block iPhone users from recording concerts
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