Sometimes we forget that customer service is more than just the people who look after us. Our experience is also affected by the processes a policies that a company has put in place, and the way that employees communicate them. Here are two classic examples:
Sheraton Hotels (Starwood)
Generally speaking, I have a lot of respect for Sheraton Hotels’ customer service. They hire terrific people, and train them exceedingly well. Their processes, unfortunately, still have a ways to go. One of the big ones is their reservations process.
Like all big hotel chains, Starwood has a central call center for reservations. No problem there. The 800 number service is both an efficiency and a benefit to customers. The issue begins with their policy to redirect reservation calls that are made to their hotels back to the call center. That’s a mistake. Think about it this way:
Fred is a regular guest of a Sheraton. Over time, the staff begin to recognize him, and a wonderful customer relationship is created. He calls the hotel directly to make a reservation, expecting to perhaps speak with someone who knows him. Instead, he gets redirected to someone who has no interest in him beyond his credit card number. How does that contribute to loyalty?
Perhaps he wanted a room in a specific wing. Perhaps he wanted to find out if the renovations were completed, or if the plumbing had been fixed in room 403. Maybe he wanted to know what the special of the day was in the restaurant. Fred has a bond with the property itself – not to the call centre.
More importantly, what if Fred had a sub-standard experience the last time there, and had mentioned it to the front desk staff? There’s a good chance this would have been relayed to the rest of the staff in the daily/weekly meetings. When Fred called for the reservation, someone at the hotel might have realized who it was, and done some kind of wow! thing to let him know that they care. You just can’t do that from a call centre.
My question is, if you have a customer who is loyal to one of your properties, why would you push ime away like that? If someone wants to talk with the call centre, they will call the 800 number. But when they call you, have the courtesy to deal with them in person.
We were in the process of moving our payroll to direct deposit. When we tried to pay everyone, though, an error message popped up that the total amount exceeded our limits. When I called to find out what that meant, the person on the phone explained that when payroll exceeds a certain amount, we need to have a “token,” and that these ‘tokens’ can be picked up in the branch.
When I asked why they were making me jump through these hoops, the curt, annoyed answer was “I don’t know why, sir, but I do know that that’s the way you have to do it.”
Yikes. Here was an individual, charged with enforcing a policy (I actually really did understand why they are doing it – but wanted to know if she did), but the company didn’t bother to tell the person why the policy was in place. The end result is that the employee was set up for failure – and for difficult customer encounters. And when you have a call centre person who is already grouchy to begin with, it’s a recipe for escalations.