Flights From Hell was pleasantly surprised to find out via an article published in WSU News that it played a role in an academic research project. The project was run by Joel Anaya, a senior in Hospitality Business Management at Washington State University.
Anaya said he was familiar with studies that focus on the role service staff play in providing customer satisfaction. But he added that there has been no scrutiny regarding how disruptive customers affect the experience of other customers.
So Anaya set out to identify people who commit what he calls “customer service sabotage.” Using four websites as data sources – Flights From Hell and its sister site Dinners From Hell, Server Nightmares, and Not Always Right - he was able to identify seven categories of customers who make things unpleasant for others, such as fellow air travelers and restaurant diners. The categories Anaya came up with (in decreasing order of frequency) were Badmouthers, Paranoid shouters, Customers with poor hygiene manners, Customers who make outlandish requests, Service rule breakers, Bad parents with bad kids, and Unknowledgeable customers.
Anaya said that the greatest number of stories he analyzed came from Flights From Hell. He commented that lack of hygiene can be a particularly acute problem on airplanes given how close passengers sit next to each other. Anaya certainly found lots of material on that particular topic as Flights From Hell has a category that’s dedicated to it - Odor Stories. Titles of stories in that category include “Booted Off for Body Odor,” “Unbathed and Infested,” and “Mr. Poopy Pants.”
Anaya noted that his study was “exploratory” and that research is needed as to how service personnel should deal with problem individuals. He said that his information could be used by management and staff when confronted with complaints, helping them to realize that in some cases problems might lie with the complainers themselves. He also said that many businesses are replacing the adage that “the customer is always right” with a more realistic approach of giving customers the benefit of the doubt, but avoid getting screwed over by chronic complainers.
Anaya, who intends to seek a Master’s degree in Hospitality Management after he graduates, plans to eventually work full-time for a hotel. When he does, he’s sure to encounter a number of customer service saboteurs himself!
You can read more about Anaya’s project, including a short description about each of the customer types, in Eric Sorensen’s WSU News article: New category of heel: the customer service saboteur.