The PADI® Quality Management program’s primary objective is to ensure that all PADI Members understand the importance of using PADI’s educational system and are aware of their responsibility to adhere to PADI Standards. When members deviate from standards, the program acts to get members back on track. When members demonstrate excellent service and are complimented by their student divers, they receive recognition for their work.
There are times, however, when complaints come in that are more about customer service issues than clear violations of PADI Standards. The PADI Quality Management team won’t tell PADI Members how to run their businesses, but will get involved when a member’s practices fall within the parameters of PADI Standards, specifically the PADI Member Code of Practice (found in the first section of your PADI Instructor Manual).
Here’s a review of a few common customer service complaints that cross over into standards issues, along with tips to help you avoid disappointing your customers and hearing from the Quality Management team:
1. Customers express concern and frustration when planned dives are changed at the last minute to very different sites than what was initially advertised. For example, the dive is scheduled for a shallow reef and en route the boat captain tells customers they’re going to a deep site with more challenging conditions because one buddy team, or worse, a crew member, requested it.
- Divers who are prepared and comfortable doing a shallow reef dive may not be ready for a deep, challenging dive.
- In the Member Code of Practice, you are required to comply with the intent of safe diving practices, consider individual comfort levels and err on the side of safety. Changing to a more challenging site does not uphold these practices.
- If you must change sites, make an effort to choose alternate sites with dive profiles and features similar to the initially planned dives.
2. Another common complaint from student divers and certified divers is concern about the equipment provided to them. For example, divers describe extremely tight-fitting BCDs or exposure protection that restrict breathing. Wet suits that are too large are also problematic because being cold may increase decompression sickness risk. Then, there is the marginally working low-pressure inflator or the leaky alternate air source.
- PADI Members have an obligation to put diver safety first, providing a student diver or novice ill-fitting equipment, or worse, equipment that isn’t functioning properly is inconsistent with this obligation.
- Proper maintenance is paramount to diver safety, customer satisfaction and risk management. It’s also important that maintenance records be maintained and the maintenance schedule is consistent with any existing procedures or manufacturer recommendations.
- Enhance your customer service by asking customer if they’re familiar with and comfortable using the provided equipment. Showing your concern for the diver’s safety and enjoyment is prudent and a good business practice.
3. Customer refunds are a common customer service issue. For example, a customer complains that a “three-week” Rescue Diver course is only partially complete after three months due to continuous rescheduling on the instructor’s part. The customer asks for a referral and the instructor refuses without explanation.
- PADI Standards require you to issue a referral if the student diver completed at least one segment of the course and has met agreed-upon financial arrangements.
- After a quality management inquiry, the dive center that employs the instructor determines it’s appropriate to not only provide the referral, but also a refund for the course. However, the dive center never provides a refund to the diver.
- Alerted that the dive center did not meet its commitment, the quality management inquiry is reopened due to the member’s lack of common honesty and professional obligation to the customer and PADI.
- Again, PADI Members determine business policies, such as when to provide refunds. However, if you make a commitment to a customer, you need to fulfill that commitment.
The best way to avoid customer service and quality management issues, it to apply good judgment when providing dive services and to be diligent about maintaining professional business practices. Occasionally, take a moment to reread the PADI Member Code of Practice and make sure you abide by all requirements.