CommunicationCustomer service

When things go awry, do you speak up or say nothing? (Find out what I did …)

“Where is Air Canada?”, my husband asks as I look vacantly at the check-in counters. In a second, the realization hits me like a ton of bricks. The parking lot shuttle driver had dropped us off at the wrong terminal. Yikes!

In a panic, we dash for the airport train with our hearts in our throat. What could go wrong next? We soon find out … and learn a thing or two about customer service in the process …

The adventure continues.

We hop on the train between terminals only to be going in the wrong direction. Ooops. We stay on the train until it loops around and, finally, get off at the right spot. But we’re not home-free yet.

Now is the mad sprint to the check-in counter with luggage in tow. Normally we travel with carry-on only. Today, we’re traveling with checked luggage because we’re attending our niece’s wedding and transporting her gifts with us. So yes, we’re riding trains and lugging carry-on AND a big bag to be checked. Sigh. Nothing seems easy.

We make it to the Air Canada terminal, up to the self-serve kiosk where we fight with technology a bit before it spits out the requisite boarding passes and baggage tag, then over to the unstaffed baggage belt where Steve and I discuss, okay we argue, about which way to place the bag. Settling on a compromise of both our approaches, we place the suitcase into position on the conveyor and watch it being swallowed into the belly of the airport and hopefully on its way to our plane.

Now, we zip through security (thank you Nexus) and find the assigned gate, of course at the most extreme end of the terminal. Here, where we assume our waiting seats and gratefully sit down. (All the things that went awry is exactly what I call “THE FINKELSTEIN FACTOR” ;o).

Whew, we’re done!

Steve goes to grab himself a coffee and I think about all the panic that ensued needlessly, all because we were dropped off at the wrong terminal and pressed for time. If we weren’t the type of travelers who allow ample check-in time, this faux pas may have been enough to cause us to miss our flights. It’s true, that maybe we heard the shuttle driver incorrectly, though it was odd that both of us thought we heard him announce, “Air Canada” as the stop. Maybe the mess-up could have been prevented if he had repeated the name of the stop as we were disembarking. Maybe he needed training? Perhaps the company’s standard operating procedures would benefit from being updated to minimize repeat performance.

I decide to speak up.

After dialing the number for Park’n Fly, I am met with a series of recorded questions and customer service inviting me to email them. Really? Why are they making this so difficult? I’m at an airport waiting for a flight. I can’t catch the email they’re saying fast enough and have nowhere to readily write it down.

POINT: Putting all the onus on the client to report a mishap or concern limits your chance of receiving feedback and increases the client’s angst.

Then, I have a brain flash. I’ll call a gentleman who helped me set up my corporate Park’n Fly account just this week. He was exceptionally helpful with that. Maybe he can help me now too?

Elvis answers the phone. Finally, a live person … and a friendly one, at that. I explain the situation, not with a view to complaining, but rather, to offer constructive feedback from a client’s perspective. My hope is to advise management of this oversight with a view to correcting it for future travelers.

His response shocks me.

Not only is Elvis attentive to my comments, he thanks me. He asks how many days we’re going to be gone. I tell him. Then he apologizes for the inconvenience and tells me that there will be some parking passes waiting for me at the reception area when I return from our trip to pick up our vehicle.

I am very pleasantly surprised! Elvis’s reaction makes me grateful that I spoke up. For years, I have enjoyed the valet service at Pearson Airport that Park’n Fly offers and I am even a bigger fan now. The fact that I spoke up and Elvis’s reaction deepens my customer loyalty.

Had I not spoken up, he and the management level would never have known of our perspective. They wouldn’t know what they needed to pay attention to and correct. And I would have robbed them of an opportunity to be aware, adjust, and then to impress me to the point I’m compelled to feature them in this article.

Next time when you’re wondering if you should speak up or step away, think about if your comments are ultimately going to help yourself or others. It’s not complaining if it’s the truth and if it’s presented respectfully from a place of genuine concern and support.

Maybe it’s my background as a marketing research analyst that positions me to want to hear and give feedback. Consider it as free marketing research.

Speak up or step away. The choice is yours.

PS: Wondering if you really want to speak up or step away? In my latest book, THE FINKELSTEIN FACTOR: WHAT TO DO WHEN THINGS GO WRONG … BECAUSE YOU KNOW THEY WILL (SIGH) I talk a bit about how the many considerations in deciding whether speaking up or stepping away is right for you.

Until next time, here’s to …
Better communication, Better business, Better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author

© 2019 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

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  • Communication consultant, author, and professional speaker Marion Grobb Finkelstein motivates and teaches individuals and organizations across Canada and beyond, how to improve morale, confidence, and productivity by changing how they communicate. Get hands-on tips by signing up for “Marion’s Communication Tips” at
Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.


  • Deborah Krause says:

    Hello Marion,

    Thanks for this note. It is not only helpful to encourage people to speak up, it helps them do it the right way by focusing on helping the receiving person/company do better. There is a big difference between complaining, which you hear a lot of in airports, and viewing mishaps from a position of positive intention i.e. maybe they need more training or maybe they just don’t know – how can I help them be better by making them aware of what happened.
    As long as the intent is help providers improve their service then a resounding YES to speaking up.

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