What Does Your Customer See?

Travel plans sometimes come together at the last minute. I went to the green company’s web site to rent a car, and got a message saying the site was down for maintenance.

It said to please call the 800 number if I wanted to make a reservation.

I called the number.

The nice person on the phone asked if I wanted to make a new reservation or discuss a current one.

I said new reservation.

“Oh, our system is down for maintenance. Can you try again in a few hours?”

It was already midnight, so I really didn’t want to do that.

“That’s OK, I’ll just call Hertz.”
Which I did.

I encountered two problems here.
First was the message that implied that a human could make a reservation while the system was down. The accurate message would have been “Our system is down for maintenance. If you want to make a reservation, please try again in a few hours.”

And, since this is the de-facto process, I have to assume that the company is doing it this way on purpose.

Then again…
Do their executives rent cars through the online system? Do they experience what their customers do? Do they see the “we’re closed, please go away” sign that is part of their normal process every Saturday night?

Another company once put me on hold. The system kicked to a local radio station rather than silence. And so I was waiting for a customer service response while listening to Mick Jagger “I don’t get no… sat is fact ion…”

4 Replies to “What Does Your Customer See?”

  1. Good one Mark.
    I had a similar experience last week. I had a room booked at a hotel. I had the special conference rate of $109 a night. I booked Thursday through Sunday.

    Three days before my Thursday arrival I wanted to book the room for Wednesday night. I was speaking to the “national” booking center for the hotel chain. I found out that my room was going to be vacant for that Wednesday night. But they wanted $250 for the room for that Wednesday night. I tried to strike a deal with the nice lady on the phone. No deal. She finally said I might strike a deal with the hotel manager. I called the hotel. No deal with the reservation person. And the manager was not there. So, the room went unoccupied and I was left wondering why they would want the room unoccupied for that night. I would have been willing to pay a little more than $109 for the Wednesday night.

    Their “system” was apparently set up to not allow for any exceptions. Are we setting up our business systems in such a way as to not allow for any flexibility, creativity, or human intervention????

    1. The interesting thing to me was a process that seems designed to send a customer to a competitor in a commoditized market. There is no fundamental difference in price and level of service across the mainline rental car companies. The first one I call that has what I need gets the business.

  2. With the TV show undercover boss in mind; you would think that the company owner or (someone) would test out their customer service from time to time. You know, call in as Mr Jones with a problem and see what happens.

    In fact when I was doing business with the hotel I think I remember hearing a recorder saying, “this call may be recorded for quality control purposes” or something like that. I guess they say that only to try and keep you from swearing while your on the phone. Or maybe that keeps their employees in line.

    1. What actually happens is the opposite. Senior executives get special treatment, and never have to deal with the regular customer interface. Nor do they deal with the competitor’s products.

      One of the more amazing things to emerge in the implosion of General Motors was the “vehicle test program.” Employees got free use of GM cars. But those cars were hand picked and maintained by company mechanics. The employees had company-paid credit cards for fuel, so they never even had to feel the cost of operation. They never had to go to a dealer. They were completely insulated from the customer’s experience of owning a GM car, as well as insulated from the competitor’s offerings.

      All of this while market share was declining every year for decades. Kinda of makes you wonder just how un-curious people are capable of becoming.

      How many airline executives do you think wait in line, go through security, and fly coach on trans-Atlantic flights?

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