Thursday, 30 June 2016

Customer Service Expectations

Today's post is brought to you by rage...

I've been dealing with some pretty crappy customer service and it has left me thinking about our expectations for service and if are expectations are too high in this day and age of constant connectivity? 

Here's the backstory:

I was given a really generous gift card for AMA from my parents for my 30th birthday a couple of months ago so that we could book ourselves a trip. Sounds fantastic right? It is! That is until we actually decided to go for it and book something. Let's just say AMA does not exactly make this easy! We're really close to their Kingsway location but the hours are really limited so it's nearly impossible for us working folks to make it there during the day. After that crazy seat sale to Paris came up a couple of weeks ago I found the name of a travel agent on their website and emailed her...she was out of the office for the next few days. Ok fine, called their call center instead and proceeded to talk to a not so helpful agent that couldn't find any seat sale prices for Paris ("maybe we don't have that deal"), whatever. I eventually heard from that first agent I spoke with but not until after the sale was done. Fine, we've moved on...Paris felt like a bit of a pipe dream anyways. 

Fast forward a few weeks to this past Monday, tons of really great deals to European destinations! We were looking at either Lisbon or Barcelona so I again emailed that first agent to see if we could make it work. Heard back from her on Tuesday (late) just saying to call her in the office on Thursday. I was a little worried about missing out again so I attempted to book the flights through the AMA website myself. After trying out a bunch of options I got a pretty much perfect flight plan, clicked check-out, filled out all our info, went to pay and bam...can't even use gift cards on their website! AHHH!! Frustration rising! Emailed screenshots of the flight plans to that agent and then called her first thing this morning, no answer, left a message...it's now 3:30pm as I write this and I'm still waiting. I then went to Twitter, where the AMA Twitter person was surprisingly helpful and had someone email me ASAP. Turns out it's all too late though as the seat sale was over today and prices have doubled! Now I'm pretty much fuming and sad about missing out a second time on a fancy trip for a really great price. Now I know this is a total luxury and it's not a trip we'd be going on if it weren't for the great gift from my parents but I'm left feeling like it really shouldn't be this hard to give a company your business. 

Another thing is, AMA actually charges you for booking through them...about $60 per person I was told. So that would mean that even though I sent them the exact flights I wanted I would still have to pay them $120 just to use my gift card. 

Now that I've had a little time to cool my rage it got me thinking about what we expect from customer service. I think I'm reasonable to be annoyed at this whole run around but I also think it can be a challenge when we're expected to answer ASAP with our constant access to cell phones, email and social media. Is that just what customer service is or so we need to cut people some slack? I kind of think that if you are in a field (like travel) that is time-sensitive it really is important for you to be accessible, and if you're not you need to provide another option (maybe an out of office message with someone else's contact info). I was actually pretty shocked when I got much better assistance via Twitter than I did over the phone or through email, both of which seem more personal to me. 

Social media has to be challenging for companies dealing with constant complaints and it really doesn't feel like if you don't get a Twitter response back quick it can just make things worse...at least that's how I feel. What's the point of Twitter if not for immediate (and pretty much 24/7) assistance? Unreasonable, sure thing; but it seems to be the way the world is going. I feel pretty lucky to be in a business where instant responses aren't necessary and normal business hours are still valued. If clients email me at 5pm they rarely (if ever) expect a response until the next day. If they all of a sudden started contacting me through Twitter though, I would feel much more pressure to reply ASAP. 

Anyways, this rant is now longer than expected but what good is a blog if you can't use it as an outlet sometimes ;) 

What are your thoughts? Do you have certain standards for good vs. bad customer service? 

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