Why is customer service so terrible?

Now, some of you would have taken one look at that title and thought, “Too right, why is customer service so terrible, I mean seriously, it’s like dealing with monkeys most of the time, it wasn’t like that when I was a young man,” and blah blah feel increasingly older as you continue to rant deep into the night.

Others of you may well have had a different reaction. You may well have thought, “It actually isn’t all that terrible. Sure, there are some companies that are just a nightmare but, when I think about out, I’m almost certain that my good experiences outweigh the bad when it comes to customer service.”

You’re both right.

You see, I belong to a group of people that weep for the state of customer service in this country. Research companies often refer to this group as ‘the public’, and we’re often used as a good starting point for any statistical analysis.

At any time in our lives, we’ve experienced both good and bad service. Just in the last week whilst I took my family on holiday, I experienced both, and I’d like to share my thoughts on them with you here.

First, the bad, which began as we started the holiday and is still going on now. The transfer shuttle company had confirmed by email that the journey time from the airport, including stopping off for other passengers, would be 45 minutes. That was fine.

It was not fine. It was not 45 minutes. It was two hours. As was the return journey.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever travelled with young children before but if you haven’t, I’ll let you in on a little secret. After two hours at an airport at 4am, followed by two and a half hours on a plane, the last place you want to be for the next two hours is a frickin’ bus.

I attempted to complain, and was given an email address. The same person who gave me the email address then emailed me back to thank me for my enquiry and that I needed a different address. Yes, I know, the veins in the forehead were beginning to throb.

After sending the second email I received an automated reply which said this:

Hello and thank you for contacting The Customer services department at *******

Naturally we are disappointed to learn of the inconvenience as detailed in your correspondence.

We will be conducting a full investigation with our supplier regarding the complaint and will revert back to you with our findings as soon as possible; usually within 14 days.

I wrote back. 14 days? Seriously, 14 DAYS????? and what I got back was…yes you guessed it..exactly the same email again. Hold on a second – “the inconvenience as detailed in your correspondence”? That means that they haven’t even read it, and if that’s true, it means that every email coming in to this address is actually a complaint.

I see, so when you say ‘Customer Services Department’, what you’ve actually meant is ‘Complaints Department’. Except who has those any more? Which company would want to announce to the world that their service was so crap that they actually needed to hire a whole department just to deal with complaints?

Did the concept of the Complaints Department die? No, it just got rebranded into the cuddly wuddly world of Customer Service, and you never even noticed it happen. It snuck up on you in the night, left a bad smell in your bedroom and then left before you woke up. The scoundrel.

So as that complaint continues, let’s look at good customer service. We arrived at the hotel and the room was not impressive – the bed wobbled (steady on chaps), the cot we ordered was not there and the housekeeping left a lot to be desired. To give you more details on that requires my getting more graphic than I would prefer. Let’s just say that there was an incident involving my two year old girl, a nappy, and scenes that would traumatise the more hardened of Vietnam veterans.

I was not happy, and I let Reception know about it. They asked what they could do to make things right. I was too angry to think of anything so I just told them that it was not up to me to decide how to compensate an unhappy customer – that was their call. Within half an hour they made everything right. We were upgraded to a better room and were guests of the hotel for dinner for the length of our stay. Now that was generous and I was more than happy to accept, and as the week went on I noticed something. Whenever I brought an issue to their attention, they fixed it, straight away and without ever telling me that there was nothing they could do.

In a hotel, Reception is the Customer Service department. It is extremely unlikely that the hotel will be perfect for every guest. Our needs are different, as are our expectations, but as long as we can be made happy, we’re more than likely to return.

But it was in looking at the difference in these two experiences that I realised why both reactions to the title of this blog are right. It’s because we remember good service long after the bad stuff has been dismissed from our minds. The brain doesn’t want to hold on to resentment and memories of mediocrity, why would it? Those memories are pointless – they’re the reason we go on holiday in the first place.

I complimented the Manager of the hotel as we left and his reaction was the icing on the cake. He simply said, “I’m glad that we were able to make things right for you but I am more sorry that we had to fix anything at all.” Now he is someone who truly gets it, and as such, I have no qualms in not only returning to his hotel, but in recommending him to all my friends. So, even though he is not paying for an advert – The Prinsotel La Dorada in Majorca – good job.