Monday, July 28, 2014

How a Lack of Communication Can Ruin Your Customer's Day

By Derek Williams
Founder and Chief Executive 
The WOW! Awards

In May 2014 I was invited to the wedding of a family friend. Maggie and I have known Toni for 32 years – since she was a toddler. And we felt very privileged to be asked to join her and Richard for their wedding and holiday in the sun. But it didn’t quite work out as planned.

Toni and Richard booked the wedding in April 2013, a full year in advance. All the prices that they were given for hairdressing, bows for seats, etc., were from the 2012 price list but they understood that.  They knew that prices might change for 2014.  But there was an express clause in the company’s terms and conditions that, “They would be kept informed of any changes.”

There were special benefits to having a group of 20 people in the party:

  • The company offered a special box for Toni to carry her dress in for the flight.  
  • There were tickets for Toni and Richard to use the VIP lounge at Stansted.  
  • There was to be a bridal suite for the night of their wedding.

So where did it go wrong?

  • Now just imagine Toni’s dream dress. Full length. Lots of folds. A long train. Everything that she wanted to make her wedding to Richard so special. She knew that Richard would cry when he saw it. But Toni was the first to cry when she saw the size of the “special box”.  For a mini skirt it would have been fine.  But for a traditional bridal gown it was ridiculously small.  So the beautiful dress had to go into a conventional suitcase.
  • On arrival at Stansted they headed straight for the VIP lounge and a glass of champagne. But where was it? One advisor told them that it was closed. Another told them that it was so far away from their departure gate that it wouldn’t be worth the walk.

Hey ho. Toni and Richard were in love. They weren’t going to be put off by a ridiculously small box and the vanishing VIP lounge.

On arrival at the hotel they were immediately informed that they would not be guaranteed all of their party to be sat together in the restaurant after the wedding service.  Hmmm.  Interesting.  What on earth made the company think that Toni and Richard might possibly want to sit with their family and friends for their wedding feast???

The only option available to them if they all wanted to be seated together was to book a private room for an extra £180.  But to be certain of the private room they would need to pay immediately as there was another wedding on the same day as Toni and Richard’s; the bride for that wedding would be arriving shortly and it was the first one to pay who got the only private dining room available.

Toni and Richard had struggled to pay for this wedding.  The last thing that they wanted was to be pressured into coughing up another £180 without any warning.

Then there were a few other things that the holiday company had forgotten to mention.

  • The free bows for the seats in a variety of colours?  No longer available.
  • The free hairdressing rehearsal the day prior to the wedding was now going to be £35.
  • The £35 hair do on the wedding day was now going to be £85.
  • The new terrace especially for the reception was no longer available.
  • And the bridal suite had disappeared.  Must be somewhere out in the ether with the VIP lounge.

If this was your wedding, all your hopes and dreams coming together a year after being booked.  How would you feel?

What happened next was really interesting.  You see, Toni and Richard had arrived 10 days before the day of their wedding. The plan was to have a lovely period of relaxation before the big day. Those 10 days however now turned into 10 days of worry, of frenzied meetings with the hotel and the holiday organizers.

And the guests came in a steady stream; people arriving every couple of days. As each new arrival joined the party, the story of all the disappointments was being repeated. It was like plunging in the knife over and over and over again. Everyone was shocked and angry.

Ten days spent arguing with the organizer. Meetings with the rep. Complaints back to the company’s UK head office and their Customer Service Director. Toni and Richard were in tears – they were just so stressed out and upset.

What did the company do to resolve all this? Honest opinion? Not very much.

They did get the bows for the seats. They were allowed to sit as a group in the restaurant without having to pay for a private room. But that was about it. There really wasn’t any genuine feeling that the company was sorry about having spoiled such an important occasion.

The day after Toni and Richard got married another couple got married at the same resort and all organized by the same holiday company.  This second bride, however, was delighted with her day.  She’d been kept informed of all the changes from the very start and nothing was a disappointment for her.

And that’s all it took. Simple communication in accordance with the company’s own terms and conditions. Simple stuff that the company could have been done at any time in the previous year but didn’t.

Now for the good news. Two days after the wedding we visited the local village and arranged for a boat to take our group on a tour of the local islands and bays. Just our group. The company heard about Toni and Richard being married and immediately organized champagne and cake for us – all at no extra charge. We all bought bandanas and dressed as pirates. It was the most amazing day out and one we will all remember. Thank you to the Captain of the Boat, you made it all worthwhile.

Moral of the story: in our quest to do more business with less employees, customer communication can often fall by the wayside. But if you cannot build loyalty with the customers you already have then you may be wasting a huge amount of money trying to attract new customers. When was the last time that you really listened to your customers?

About the Author:

Derek Williams is Chief Executive and founder of The WOW! Awards.  This process is now being used by organisations around the world that are passionate about creating a great place to work and a great place to be a customer.    +00 44 (0) 1438 310191
Twitter @TheWowAwards

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