At the moment when I am driven to call a customer service line for “support”, I cringe.  There is this deep feeling of “I am just going to get annoyed, frustrated, etc.”  I wrote a blog several months ago about a company, my washer and dryer and how LinkedIn helped overcome the customer service shortfalls of said company by contacting an operating leader directly from LinkedIn via a mutual group we were a part of.  This time is was a bit easier, mainly because of another relationship… Yes, yet again another reason that relationship building is so important.

So, I was booking some travel online, and for some background, I am traditionally a bit of a Marriott junkie; when I travel, 9 times out of 10 I stay at a Marriott property.  But, I have a friend who is an executive for an online travel company, so I thought that I would use that company to book my travel, noting that I was not guaranteed the Marriott points if I did this.  But alas, I am not always after the points and wanted to take the opportunity to support my friend.  Anyways, I ended up being able to book a Marriott property with this site, but then noticed that there was a cheaper price for the same property on another site.  The site I booked on does give a price match for prices found at other competitor sites, so I decided to call their customer service to discuss the price match… now begins the cringing.

After a short holding time, thankfully, a representative answered and asked me the typical “how am I doing?” Followed by a “how may I help you today?”  I explained the situation and that a competitor site had a cheaper rate and as we continued the dialogue they asked for some additional details.  After about 5 minutes of speaking back and forth about the price match, the representative said, “Sir, the room you booked is a city view suite king and their site says you are trying to book a city suite king.  Because it is a different room type, we cannot match the price.  And, that is a great price you saw, so you should book with that site.”  I paraphrased so as to keep this more anonymous, BUT I was appalled.  First off, what is the difference between a “city view suite king” and a “city suite king”?  I am 100% sure, yes, that is how confident I am, that they are referring to the same room type.  Ok, I digress.  But, how on earth is that a part of the standard operating language that these representatives are trained to speak to.  Telling the customer to go ahead and book with a competitor site???

With market share being more and more difficult to capture, competition rapidly rising and consumers demanding more, customer service tends to play a big role in attracting and retaining customers.  I can’t even count the number of times customer service experiences have stood out as a reason for someone to leave a company, sign on with a company or use/not use a company’s services.  Sometimes, it is even prioritized higher than cost.  YES, some people will pay a bit extra for better customer service – we all know this is true!

Anyways, I was also forwarded an article from a colleague recently on how a multi-billion dollar telecom provider kept a customer on hold for hours, until the business day ended, which kept the company from having to cancel the service plan that day:

All in all, remaining focused on customer relationships is the name of the game and it’s also getting much harder with the fluctuations in consumer requirements and demands.  Whether via better CRM solutions, more effective customer service guidance or customer surveys with integrated feedback, being consistent and not just reading the standard operating language will likely drive improved service levels as a whole.