Everyone has bad customer experiences. Over the last year, I’ve had a few myself: the cable company that sent the wrong installer to run a cable Internet line into my apartment; the mail order company that mailed me a card saying that a gift item I ordered was out of stock (it had my phone number and email address); the mail order prescription service that charged me twice for the same order (still working out that one).

The worst experience was with my phone company. The night before I left on my European vacation last summer, I picked up the phone — no dial tone. Since the call wasn’t urgent, I continued packing for my trip. Surely it was a glitch and would be fixed by the time I got home.

Two weeks later, I arrived home — still no dial tone. I called customer service (in India) to report the problem. “Ms. Faloon, there was a problem with the line in your area. Some customers were able to get service back right away, but we’re still working on the problem with your service.”

OK, they’re working on it. Can he give me an estimate for how long it will take to resolve the problem? Another three or four days, he said.

Over the next six weeks I was told it would be another three or four days. Finally, I was told that the company would not be able repair the line and I would need to get new phone service.

So I had another Internet phone service hooked up and everything was back to normal. Until my Internet service was gone the next day. “Ms. Faloon, since your phone service and Internet service were bundled together, we had to cancel both.”

In five years, I’d never had a problem with the phone line and only a few times did I have to call about my Internet service. Generally, I had been pretty happy with this company. Until now.

My best experience this year was with U.S. Airlines. You may have heard about the fire last fall in the air traffic control center that controls the air space around the Chicago area. I was flying from Chicago to Phoenix to Ontario, Calif., for an industry convention. Because the fire had happened only a few days before my flight, it was taking pilots a long time to figure out flight paths around the affected area.

My flight that day left an hour late. My layover in Phoenix was an hour and 15 min. I used the WiFi on the plane and found out the gate I needed to get to was in another concourse. It looked like I was going to miss my connection.

When the plane landed, I hurried off the plane as fast as I could. I spied a U.S. Air employee as soon as I entered the terminal. I explained where I needed to go; did she think I could still make my plane?

She quickly looked up my flight and gate number, and then flagged down the driver of one of those motorized carts that are constantly beeping in the airport. I and another passenger hopped on, and away we went. We arrived at the gate just two minutes before the doors shut.

Not only did I make my connection so I could arrive at the convention on time, my luggage actually made it on the same flight! I really appreciated the extra effort of that gate agent.

What about your customer service policies? Are your employees empowered to give your customers that extra effort to make sure they are satisfied?

In this issue, you can read about one company that provides exceptional customer service. Atomic Plumbing in Virginia Beach, Va., receives many rave reviews from its customers about its technicians and office staff — about technicians’ professionalism; their skills in communicating the problem, resolution and cost to the customer; and the communication from the office staff.

Every morning at 10, Atomic’s dispatcher calls each customer on the call board with an update. And updates are given every two hours so customers know if a technician is running on time or a little behind schedule. If the customer provides an email address, a photo and bio of the technician are emailed so the customer knows who she is letting into her home.

Atomic guarantees 100% customer satisfaction. If a customer is not happy with the work or the price, company President Jim Steinle finds out what will make her happy. But judging from the customer letters, testimonials and reviews, it doesn’t happen too often.

A money-back guarantee may not be right for your company, but training your staff to provide excellent customer service consistently will boost your reputation — and your revenue.