Operations

Keeping A Service Failure Log

Jim Luff
Posted on March 8, 2019

When you mess up, how do you keep track of things so it doesn't happen again?

When you mess up, how do you keep track of things so it doesn't happen again?

Every customer service failure provides a learning opportunity. You can learn a lot by keeping a log and applying changes based on past mistakes. Think of it as a report card for your business.

Defining a “service failure” can get rather broad. No-shows caused by human error, mechanical failures, and even slow billing can be considered service failures. Tracking these failures can help identify staff members who are not delivering to expectations or problem vehicles that drain cash from your business.

Chris Przybylski with Limo & Bus Compliance, an industry regulatory consulting service, provides analysis on service failures for about 30 transportation clients and examines all factors that hinder a client, such as traffic issues, chauffeur complaints, and slow billing. He reports the average service failure rate of his clients is about two percent.

Reading Report Cards

You likely remember the excitement or fear of opening your school report card. A report card grades specific courses, and as we all may painfully remember, the grade may not always have been as high as expected in a particular subject. Perhaps you thought you were getting an “A” in English but instead you got a “B-.” You knew immediately you had to put a little more effort into your English class. Maintaining a log of failures may provide that same eye-opening experience. You might not be doing as well as you think you are.

What Size Companies?

You may assume your company is too small to worry about this. If you plan to grow, you should start a log now. The larger your company becomes, the more people who could contribute to service failures. When you get to the size of big-metro companies such as BostonCoach, Windy City Limousine and Bus, Commonwealth Worldwide, and Music Express, as an owner you may not be aware of every service failure on any given day. Having a log allows you to review recorded incidents and adopt new policies, change existing ones, and identify weak areas of your operations.

Organizing Your Log

New York operator Doug Schwartz advocates using multiple categories to classify service failures, since they can range widely.

New York operator Doug Schwartz advocates using multiple categories to classify service failures, since they can range widely.

Whether you keep your log in a binder, on a spreadsheet, or tracked through reservations software, it should be categorized by types of failure. “Client service failures can be anything, even something out of your control, (such as) bad traffic, the luggage carousel took forever, it’s hot,” says Doug Schwartz, CEO of Executive Limousine in Bellmore, N.Y.  As such, your tabs should include mechanical, missed pick-ups, late pick-ups, chauffeur complaints, vehicle interior problems, and of course, human errors such as oversleeping or getting lost. Brent Abruzese, owner of several transportation companies in New Jersey, created a special settlement category in Limo Anywhere called “Service Error” so he can track failures within the software and keep details by notes in the reservation and/or client profile.

This might seem like a lot of information to document. However, you should not have to enter information in a failure log too often. As you use the log of past mistakes to make changes within your company, the fewer failures you should encounter in the future.

Cause Codes

Every accident investigation report ends with findings on accident causes and contributing factors. You should come to a conclusion for each service failure such as mechanical, staff training, staff performance, human errors, weather related, or others.

The Cost of Resolution

Brent Abruzese, owner of Red Bank Limo in Red Bank, N.J., created a special settlement category in his Limo Anywhere software system called “Service Error” so he can track failures within the software and keep details by notes in the reservation and/or client profile.

Brent Abruzese, owner of Red Bank Limo in Red Bank, N.J., created a special settlement category in his Limo Anywhere software system called “Service Error” so he can track failures within the software and keep details by notes in the reservation and/or client profile.

All service failures will cost you something. Whether it’s your time to discuss with all parties involved or a full refund, you should document all costs and effects of a resolution. You might be surprised to eventually see exactly how much a particular chauffeur costs you in resolving his failures. Rohan D’Souza, CEO of Riviera Transportation in Mt. Bethel, Penn., recommends instead of issuing refunds, you offer them a better deal towards their next trip.

“This results in them calling you again and gives you an opportunity to outshine yourself and correct your mistake,” D’Souza says. You will need to examine every failure for the appropriate action based upon its severity.

Client Caused Failures

We’ve all heard the old adage the customer is always right. That’s old, outdated, and obviously not made for our business. Clients have been known to give the wrong date for airport pick-ups, flight numbers, and hotel names. Sami Elotmani, vice president of operations for Destination MCO in Orlando, recommends recording service failures caused by clients, such as providing the wrong pick-up date or time. This can help identify a need to modify reservationist scripts to improve the date verification process.

Target Goal

Sami Elotmani, VP of operations and director of global affiliate partnerships for Destination MCO in Orlando, says his company strives for a .25% failure rate, or one error out of every 400 trips.

Sami Elotmani, VP of operations and director of global affiliate partnerships for Destination MCO in Orlando, says his company strives for a .25% failure rate, or one error out of every 400 trips.

When operators were asked in an informal social media survey, the most commonly quoted key performance indicator (KPI) was .5% at most. That would equate to no more than five failures for every 1,000 trips. Lisa Ortega, affiliate manager for BostonCoach, says every Friday CEO Scott Solombrino reviews the service failure log. As 2018 ended, BostonCoach had a failure rate of .56% and was certainly close to its target goal. Destination MCO strives for .25% or one single error out of every 400 trips, Elotmani says.

Log Keepers

This should be based upon many factors. Record service failures as soon as they occur to avoid losing details of the incident. An owner or manager should document each incident with input from all parties involved to properly analyze and categorize them. A person familiar with the incident resolution and costs should enter it into the record. The log doesn’t need to be confidential since it’s an improvement tool for all staff members. The most logical staffers to start an entry into the log are the dispatchers on duty at the time of the incidents, since they are most likely to know the details and people involved.

It’s Not Doom And Gloom

Technology is your tracking friend.

Technology is your tracking friend.

While no one likes failing, there are some silver linings and rainbows that result from failures. “Service failures are a good thing,” says Scott Woodruff, owner of Majestic Limousine in Des Moines, Iowa. “It gives you a reason to touch the client. Own your pitfall, touch the client, and make them a more loyal client.”

Schwartz points out clients often complain because they are simply having a bad day. Sam Rubin, owner of Park City Group Transportation in Park City, Utah says you need to get on the same emotional level as a grumpy client and give them an opportunity to vent. Keeping a log of failures isn’t all bad. Consider it more of your roadmap to excellence.   

Level of Detail

How much information you record in your log is up to you. The more detail you enter, the more data you have for future examination and decision making. At minimum we recommend you keep the following details:

  • Trip number
  • Vehicle ID
  • Chauffeur
  • Reservationist
  • Dispatchers involved
  • Other staff
  • Affiliate service provider
  • Date of failure
  • Type of failure
  • Summary of incident
  • Resolution
  • Cost of resolution
  • Resolving manager

[email protected]

Related Topics: business growth, business management, customer service

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Anthony

     | about 3 months ago

    I would love to read one companies failure log to add to the funny failures we know if to date Vegas- having 3 vehicles impounded by vegas limo emforcement (cost about 10k) San diego superbowl- driver stole 1 of 7 footballs from nfl person (football was returned and company was not payed for the weeks work :) Male celebrity singer ordered a party bus from his mansion to las vegas - junk party bus broke down on the clients driveway ( another company sent a real party bus for their customer Constant flat tires from thr used chinese tires this operator uses :)

More Stories
Adrian Davis, owner of Five Star Transportation Services (All photos: Adrian Davis)
News

Going After The Big Guys

eNews Exclusive: Adrian Davis sticks with the makes and models that stand out against Uber and Lyft.