What not to do if you are running a Customer Service organization
I recently booked a flight for my wife on Westjet. For some reason, their website was having a problem and after trying twice, I gave up trying to book online. I phoned their 1-888 number and experienced one of the worst IVR (Interactive Voice Response) experiences of my life. Basically the system is set up to have the customer book their entire flight by reading to the customer all of the possible options for flying to your destination and back. Once WestJet has extracted this information and priced the flight, then they transfer you to an agent to take your payment information.
In my case, the agent spelled my wife's name wrong so I had to phone back to get this corrected. This meant another ordeal with the IVR system to confirm my booking reference, my flight dates and my wife's (misspelled) name, which then after a torturous process, I was advised that the wait time to talk to a "WestJet Super Agent" was 17 to 21 minutes. To amuse myself while waiting, I related this story in the form of customer feedback on the WestJet website. I was promptly provided with this email confirmation:
Currently we are experiencing higher than usual volume; please allow up to ten weeks for a response. If your issue is of an urgent nature, or if you need to make a change or cancellation to an existing booking, for the best service, please contact the Sales Super Center at 1 888 WestJet (937 8538).
We appreciate the time you have taken to share your experience with us. Your feedback is important to us. It will help us focus our efforts, and improve the WestJet experience for all of our guests.
Our Guest Relations Team responds to all questions or concerns in the order that they were received.
We look forward to welcoming you onboard a friendly WestJet flight soon!
Honest, I don't make this up: "please allow up to ten weeks for a response" and highlighted in bold, no less. I am not sure that I agree with the wisdom of stating that because of higher than usual volume, your customer service organization is swamped and unresponsive. Maybe they have so many customers writing them love notes that it is taking ten weeks to wade through all the compliments. Somehow, based on my experience this evening, I doubt it.
By the way, I hung up after 25+ minutes of waiting without ever talking to a WestJet Super Agent.
So, other than my rant, what teaching moments are in this story?
First, don't piss customers off. But, when you do (and we all will, at some time or another), don't then pour gas on the fire.
Here were some hot button issues for me:
- "WestJet Super Agent" and "Super Sales Centre": If you are going to brag and set the bar very high, you better live up to it. Their Super Agent misspelled my wife's name and their Super Centre had a 17-21 minute wait time and didn't even live up to that commitment.
- Best practices tell marketers to communicate with customers by acknowledging website feedback. If I was running that customer service centre, I would be sending an email to my executives telling them that we are currently backlogged 10 weeks in getting to customer feedback and we need more resources to fix that instead of sending that email to a customer. Sending that email to me was just plain stupid. At best, it says that their customer service is understaffed because they really don't care about customers. At worst, it says that their organization is swamped with problems and complaints. Neither inspires me to do business with them.
- Don't promise what you can't deliver. It was nice to advise me that the wait was 17-21 minutes and to give me an option to have them call me back. I chose to hold on line. Therefore, Westjet, you need to answer my call within your specified time.
- Use technology wisely. IVR's can provide a great customer experience that speeds up service time and isn't unpleasant. Unfortunately Westjet's doesn't.
Maybe I just had a bad one-off experience. I have flown Westjet in the past and the experience was pleasant. But then again, when I was flying with them in the past, I wasn't expecting a super experience, from their Westjet Super Agent in the Sales Super Centre.