I am just back after a couple of really brutal weeks on the road. You’ve been reading in the papers that travel is hard this summer, but you have to experience it to appreciate the almost universal breakdown in customer service. That’s left me thinking about the few examples of good customer service we’ve seen. And I’ve discovered the four magic words that foreshadow a rare and precious helpful moment:

“Let me try something.”

That is the sound of someone flipping the autopilot switch off and using their human judgment, experience and creativity to actually solve a problem. They were the words we heard in New York when a United gate agent worked the system to get us on a flight after we were stranded by the freak New York rains. Its what the kid at Verizon said when I asked if there was any way to get a cell phone number ending in “00.” It’s practically a mantra when you call JetBlue.

Part of what makes those four words and the actions they foretell so beautiful, sadly, is their rarity. We could fill the blog with moments of indifferent and unhelpful customer “service” from the past two weeks alone. Here’s one tip: if you cannot get what you need from United airlines online, drive over to the airport and deal with a human. Their phone help system is 100% useless.

In the hyper-cautious world of non-profit communications, are your folks hamstrung by procedures and “talking points?” Or are they empowered to actually respond in a useful way? Can your bloggers actually blog?