This week you’ve heard from Stacy discussing the importance of good customer service and Leigh Ann sharing her experience of moving cross-country. I’m going to round out this series by talking about the best ways I’ve found to deal with customer service issues, what to do if you can’t get satisfaction, and use a story that will hopefully illustrate the points.
The Situation and Steps I Took
I’ll use the example fresh in my mind of a recent hotel stay. I travel fairly regularly, and there is one hotel that I stay at so often that I know almost all the staff by name and they have assigned me “my room” I’ve been there so much. On my last trip there, I had a problem. I was traveling on a flight that landed a bit after 10pm. By the time I got my luggage, picked up the rental car, bought some drinks/snacks at a grocery store for my stay and got to the hotel, it was about midnight. I went to the check-in desk and met someone I didn’t recognize. She told me my room had been given to someone else because I didn’t check in early enough and because the hotel was oversold. Mind you, I stay at this hotel constantly, had the room reserved with a debit card and had called three times (total) to book/confirm prior to my trip. This should not have happened. There was a convention in town and the best they said they could offer was to place me in a room completely on the other side of the city. Not good enough. So in addition to what Stacy and Leigh Ann have already shared, here’s my take on how you can get the most out of your customer service issues:
- Be honest – If you have reasonable expectations that were not met by a company or one of its representatives, you have every right to share that story with someone you believe can fix it. But don’t make the story out to be some huge life-altering event if it isn’t really such a thing.
- Be realistic – If you had a negative experience with your food at a restaurant, that MIGHT be grounds for you to ask for a different dish or for your meal to be free. It is NOT grounds to sue the restaurant for $1,000,000. Come on, people!
- Be calm – Yelling, cussing, and generally making a fool of yourself won’t get you anywhere. While it may be fun, it isn’t going to do you any good to get riled up and it is not going to help your cause.
- Be nice – This goes along with being calm. Most of the time a customer service representative is not the one directly responsible for any mistake made. He/she is however the person who MIGHT be able to fix it, so you stand a much better chance of that person wanting to help you if you are nice to him/her.
- Set expectations – Although I was relatively nice with the desk agent during my hotel experience, I did set the expectation that my entire stay would be free. Once I realized the desk agent couldn’t fix my problem immediately, I said then and there what I believed to be the appropriate action for them to take to remedy the issue to my satisfaction. Notice I didn’t say, “I hope you’re going to make this right.” I was specific and up front: “This is a big inconvenience and simply unacceptable. Especially as often as I stay with you, I know this is substandard service and you’re better than this. I expect the remainder of my stay with you on this trip will be free.” It sets the bar for them to act and makes clear what you want them to do based on the mishap.
- Escalate only if necessary – Having worked in a call center, I know it is not uncommon to have someone call and ask for a supervisor. Sometimes those are the first words out of their mouth. This is all well and good but at least give the person you are dealing with as a representative of that company to make it right. If you aren’t able to get a reasonable resolution based on company policy or the representative’s lack of empowerment or willingness to help, then ask for a supervisor or manager. If that doesn’t work, maybe you need to go even higher. This might mean regional manager, it might mean owner, it might even mean the Better Business Bureau or Federal Trade Commission. This point is the only one where I have to be a little vague because the hierarchy varies from industry to industry and company to company. The point is this – don’t be afraid to escalate if you can’t get a reasonable resolution…but don’t miss points 1-5 if you have to go that route.
I used these principles in my dealing with this hotel. What happened? First, they found a hotel for me (albeit across town) that night which was much better than their hotel and they paid for my stay there. Second, I ended up with two nights free (saving me almost $300 after taxes/fees) and their absolute cheapest rate on the remaining two nights (saving me another $80). I had to speak to the hotel’s general manager to accomplish this, but it was a reasonable outcome for the problem they caused. Was it everything I wanted? No. Was it more than I HONESTLY expected? Yes. Did I bad-mouth that hotel to the thousands of people who will read this post? No. Instead, I will gladly stay at that hotel again because they’ve proven they want my business.
What tips would you add?