Put Some ‘Skin In’ for Inconvenience

World-class service is getting harder to find, but, when you do find even a glimpse of it, it’s worth celebrating and sharing.

Here’s what I’m talking about. After a full week speaking and facilitating in the Philippines, I took a weekend trip to the islands to cool the jets and refresh. Utterly relaxed nursing thirddegree burns to half my body and mild sunstroke, I headed back to the airport late on Sunday afternoon. I was immediately ushered to a rickety booth and informed politely that my flight back to Manila had been cancelled. No delay, simply cancelled. 

As you can imagine, I wasn’t impressed, though the staff tried hard to demonstrate a sincere apology for my inconvenience. Following this exchange, I was herded to a shuttle bus for a 90-min trek to another airport. The loaded bus took off! 


Racing through tiny villages, airborne at times through streets lined with infants, dogs and chickens, among others. The shuttle bus rocketed past only inches away from absolute carnage. What an experience. Prior to manning the rocket bus, the lady on the customer service desk offered me a trade for my inconvenience. She apologized and carefully handed me a card.

A tangible gesture

This gesture, a small voucher, was well received. Although my time in the Philippines would not allow me to cash in the voucher, I appreciated the offer. My inconvenience was not exactly a fair trade, but it was a trade “none the less”. I have since kept this small voucher tucked in my wallet to remind me of what great service feels like: it’s tangible. 

Too many companies inconvenience their customers yet do little more than offer to trade that negative experience for an insincere apology (sorry). To be frank, some staff couldn’t care less either, which is sad. This type of service just won’t cut it in today’s market.

Demonstrate regret

I encourage businesses to work harder to demonstrate their regret when they let a customer down. Make it tangible. Make it meaningful. Put somefeeling into it. Give them anything but (sorry) hot air! Take the little Philippine airline at Cebu as an example. They get customer service and are prepared to put some skin in the game, and, for that, I’ll invest back in them. 

Mistakes will happen, so have a method for owning them. This is called common sense. It’s called courtesy. It’s called service culture. This is not only courageous, it’s a proven method to inspire loyalty and repeat business.