Tuesday, November 30, 2010

When Customer Care Works!

In my last blog I was writing about customer care when it goes wrong – so I decided this time to concentrate a bit on when it goes right. I am writing this in Frankfurt airport where as I show my boarding card to the security guard he scans it and wishes me a nice trip back to Brussels, at the security-check there is no shouting at people  for not being quick enough  to empty laptops, shoes, handbags, coats and pockets. All over it is “good evening”, “thank you”, “please” and “have a nice flight”.  Realizing that my flight is delayed I decide to have my dinner here, and again I am amazed on how nice and polite everybody is. Normally in an European airport they know you are a captured audience so they can (and will) treat you badly and charge you a fortune without really worrying if you go somewhere else. But here it was different (OK it is still airport prices – but it does not feel so bad if you, at least, get treated nice).
Does this change my travel habits – probably not (I still have to go to Frankfurt airport six times a year whether they are nice or not) but it does make me much more willing to part with some cash if I am not stressed over the lousy treatment I got in the security-check, and I know I can get some decent service with my dinner. And it does make me a much nicer passenger as well. I am more likely to smile and take extra care not to bump into somebody else (I am not even that upset over the 30 min delay) and if I am like this, I believe I am not the only one – so with a bit of courtesy and smile from all the staff, the entire atmosphere in the airport has changed – that is a result for anybody!.
This brings me to when bad service is turned around. In my organization we ask our customers to let us know how the call went. And if the survey is not good we really want to speak to that customer again so we can try to make up for whatever went wrong. These are the customers we have a chance to save, the one who just decide to go elsewhere without telling us why – that is a real waste.
Back to travel, two months ago I stayed with my family in the Maldron hotel in Dublin, it is a place we have been before and like, but since we had been there last it has changed ownership. The hotel is still nice with the amenities we like (swimming-pool, walking distance to town and a proper bed for our young son instead of the usual pull-out).  The staff is most polite and helpful but there were a few hic-cups in the “system” of the hotel: when we told our 11 year old that he could buy a movie the only choice was porn (We are pretty relaxed but sexolympics is not on when you are 11), and the really clever system they have where the vending machine charge your keycard did not work.  On our return I dropped a mail to the hotel pointing out the shortcomings and within hours the manager called me back for more details and to apologies. It was a very nice conversation where I for sure felt he listened and understood my concerns and that some actions would be taken (Ex switch off porn if children are staying in the room), and offered us a free night as a appreciation of the feedback. I was delighted – not so much because of the free night but because he listened and understood. Of course when we are going back next month we will stay a further two nights and we will keep coming back – so by picking up the phone and listening  to me, he now have very loyal customers in our family.  
This is true for all types of customers, so if a customer offers you feedback (of any kind)  please do not turn a blind eye – that communication can change an unsatisfied customer into a loyal advocate.

Monday, November 22, 2010

We do have a choice – we just need to make it!

I just read a very interesting blogpost on lowcost airlines – especially Ryanair, which made me think about the powers we have as consumer.
When I travel privately I must admit we look for value for money – if we spend less on getting there, we can spend more whilst we are there. But it has come to a point where the actual saving has to be really significant before I choose Ryanair over other airlines.
Somehow over the last decade travelling by air has turned into an experience where you have absolute no right to dignity. And whilst I can understand – and live with that in the name of safety (although I still struggle with the airports who want my toiletries in a plastic bag), the way Ryanair ground staff treats their customers is so rude it should be illegal. Just recently we (husband, son and I) where in Italy on holiday- and we travelled Ryanair. First in the Belgian airport (I refuse to call it “Brussels south” as it is 70km outside Brussels), the security staff will when checking your passport and boarding card, they will also check that your hand luggage is not too big. Excuse me, but are those people not there for our national security and safety? What does that have to do with the size of my carry-on. On the other side in Italy there was a ground staffer with a bathroom scale to make sure that we did not carry too much onboard – I mean give me a break…..
But the truth is that even though I hate the way I am being treated, by buying the ticket I allow them to do so.  In almost every other aspect (where I have a choice) if I do not get the service I think I am entitle too (and this is not much) I leave and will not come back. Yet when it comes to buying the flight tickets we look at each other and think if we can save 200 EUR (260$) we can live with the inconvenience. Maybe it is the amount of money that is the decider – or maybe it is because you do not realize just how bad it is going to be when you order the tickets.
But as consumers we need to realize that we do have a choice – and together we have power to turn things around, we can choose not to buy that Ryanair ticket and if enough of us choose not to they will have to change the way they treat us.
But I also know what a lovely meal you can have in Verona for much less than the 200 EUR I saved.