I’ve seen an alarming trend over the last few years in the travel industry that has me worried. The customer service experience is just getting worse and worse. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the passenger incident on United and to a much lesser extent, there was the decision by Chase to stop accepting new applications for the Amazon.ca Visa. These days it seems even the most basic forms of customer service are no longer available.
For me, customer service isn’t about getting the best value out there. It’s about being able to answer a customer’s questions and issues within a reasonable amount of time. Consumers shouldn’t have to wait weeks for their case to be investigated when the solution is obvious, yet that’s exactly what I experienced twice recently.
Customer service fails
This should be obvious, but how customer service is handled can set them apart from their competition, yet organizations can make things painfully difficult for customers.
Recently I stayed at a major hotel chain who’ve I’ve been pretty loyal to my entire adult life. I’ve never had a problem with them in the past, but on my recent trip I noticed I was charged resort fees directly to my credit card which was a mistake since I had paid for them in cash.
I knew it would be a battle since I didn’t have a receipt. However, with the evidence I had, I thought it would be enough for them to reverse the charges immediately.
How wrong I was. After making a dispute on my credit card, I waited a month for the investigation to complete. The decision ended up ruling against me, but my credit card provider used common sense and refunded me the charges directly since it was clear to them that I had a valid case.
In another situation, I was charged for bringing in a third guest to the airport lounge. The problem is, I didn’t have a third guest. It was just my wife and I travelling together.
The customer service agent said they would have to open an investigation and check with the lounge to see what they had on file. Well, the lounge thought I brought two people hence why I was charged, so what good would an investigation do?
I provided the customer service rep with my itinerary and also pointed out that it was just my wife and I that used the lounge when I returned home. Sure it didn’t prove that I didn’t bring in an additional person, but common sense would say I was telling the truth. To be fair, I was refunded the charge, but are these investigations really worth alienating loyal customers?
In both situations, I was disputing less than $50 USD. You would think that front line customer service representatives would be able to approve small refunds like this, but in both cases, I had to wait for a formal investigation.
The time I wasted on these disputes was worth more than what I was charged, but it was the principle of the situations that mattered to me.
Why good customer service matters
It’s funny how different a good customer service experience compares to a bad one. Whenever I’ve had a minor problem with fees or charges with my bank, the first person I’ve spoken to has been able to resolve my issues.
There’s no need to open a case for my dispute or to ask their managers for approval. They just looked at my request, came to a reasonable conclusion, and refunded me my money. As a result, I’m happy to tell everyone about the service I received.
To be fair, I can’t blame the entire travel industry for how customer service is handled. I’m just getting tired of customers getting less value for their services and having to jump through hoops to get things corrected when they’re not at fault.
The good thing is that some travel companies are leading the way when it comes to customer service. WestJet recently changed their rewards program tiers making it easier for everyone to earn more points. This is the exact opposite of what some of their competition is doing.
Urban Adventures, who operates tours in more than 100 cities is constantly looking to improve their product. They adjust their tours based on customer feedback and after completing your first tour, they’ll give you a discount on your next one.
It takes just one bad customer service experience for people to never use a company again. However, a good customer service experience can mean free PR for a lifetime.
The cost of business is constantly changing so most travellers understand that prices change all the time. However, one thing that everyone expects is a solid customer service experience. This is not a new thing so it’s disappointing to see that in some situations, little improvement has been made.