Today’s post is brought to you by rage…

I’ve been dealing with some pretty crappy customer service recently, and it has left me questioning what my expectations should be. In this day and age, we have constant access to information and methods of communication, and that has definitely altered what I expect from the service industry.

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. Their idea was that they could send us on a nice trip. Sounds fantastic right? It is! That is until we actually decided to go for it and book something. Let’s just say AMA has not exactly made this easy! We’re really close to their Kingsway location but their hours are really limited, so it’s nearly impossible for us working folks to make it there during the day. A couple of weeks ago there was a crazy seat sale to Paris, and that really got us thinking about jumping on one of those deals for a week in Europe. I looked on the AMA website and found the name of a travel agent on their website who was listed as a Europe expert and emailed her…she was out of the office for the next few days. Ok, no problem. I then called into their call centre 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. A few days later I heard back from that first agent I emailed, 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, and there were a new batch of deals to a bunch of European destinations! We narrowed it down to 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 level 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 for a callback. I then took to Twitter, where the AMA Twitter rep was shockingly helpful and had someone email me ASAP. Turns out it was too little too late, as the seat sale had ended and prices were now doubled! At this point, I am pretty much fuming and super disappointed about missing out a second time on a fancy trip for a such a 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 do 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 is still relatively new and has to be a huge challenge for large companies. It feels necessary for them to have a presence but that also means they have to be responsive, both timely and accurately. What’s the point of Twitter if not for immediate (and pretty much 24/7) assistance? Unreasonable, sure; 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. Any of us who are on social media have seen examples of companies who kill it on social media (Wendy’s) and those who get slaughtered (United Airlines).

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?

Update: After posting this rant I was contacted by an AMA manager who felt horrible for what had transpired, and she was able to arrange an amazing trip for us to Barcelona at a similar price point to the deal we had found. You can find a full recap of our trip here. Not only was AMA able to get us a good price on flights, their knowledge of the area really came in handy on figuring out where to stay and what to do so don’t let my initial rant scare you away from using a travel agent 🙂

How have our expectations for customer service changed?

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