Monday, March 23, 2015

Tiny Bit of Customer Experience

This post is about ‘Customer experience’ and how I recently learnt that it can make wonders for an organization if done the right way. Having said that, one bad experience can also make one lose 100 valuable customers. It works this way. We might forget to share the pleasant experiences but we are ought to share the painful ones. I will share one such experience with you. We recently went on a trip to Hong Kong and had made a hotel booking for our stay well in advance. I had used Expedia for my flight bookings a couple of times in the past so I thought of trying their hotel booking for the first time.

I was working on a different computer that day and it was connecting me directly to the Hong Kong websites, so instead of, I was redirected to I didn’t know then that and weren’t integrated. Amazon probably was in my mind as I could use the same username and password at and (though not much else is shared between these 2 sites). Coming back to the story, I searched for some hotels to stay and sent the links of the shortlisted ones to this Co-blog-author. He did his own comparison and came up with the final selection. We went ahead and made the booking, got an E-itinerary which said this:

Your reservation is booked. No need to call us to reconfirm this reservation.

and it also said this:

This reservation is non-refundable and cannot be cancelled or changed.

We went to Hong Kong and after an exciting day at Disneyland, reached the hotel. The receptionists told us that they could not find our confirmation in their system and that we should call up Expedia. Luckily, because it was we could use one of the local phones at the reception (our phones weren’t active in HKG other than for the WiFi). The first call to the customer service department lasted for 15 minutes. I had to press all the 1’s and 2’s and 9’s to select the language, choose the relevant department to help me with my problem and finally got a chance to speak with a representative. Boom! I heard a voice on the other side and instantly guessed that the person on the other side was an Indian. Maybe someone in one of those centrally air conditioned BPO offices in Bangalore. My heart wanted to switch from English to Hindi/Tamil but I ignored those thoughts and instead spoke to him in an Indianised English. Not that I speak British English in my daily life but that day, my English was more accented. The man on the other side sounded very kind (probably he figured out that I was from his country too). At the end of the conversation, he promised me that I would get a call within the next 15 minutes. We waited for 20 minutes at the reception before placing our second call. This time, I knew the numbers to be typed by heart. How I scored those marks in schools just by being a good mugger! I started talking to the customer representative in less than a minute but the conversation again went on for about 15 minutes with me providing the itinerary number, customer verification, that the hotel doesn’t have our itinerary, explaining to them how we have been waiting for the last 20 minutes for a call-back, that we have been waiting for the last 1 hour at the reception and that the whole situation is very ridiculous. I told him that he should let us know of the status very soon because it was very late in the night already and waiting any longer would mean stretching past midnight. I also stressed that we wouldn’t find another room in the same hotel if we delayed further. This representative sounded very kind too and he promised me that I will get a call-back very soon.

We waited for 15 more minutes but there was no call. Every time the phone rang at the reception, I thought it would be for us and that Expedia would apologize to us, probably send ‘Sorry’ e-mails for all the inconvenience caused, maybe some goodies too asking us to forget the unhappy part of the stay. None of this happened and we planned to book another room. Obviously, the receptionists declined to swap the new booking if the guys from Expedia called up in the middle of night and told them that it was a mistake from their side. The lady at the reception was considerate enough and allowed us to call Expedia one more time. This time I punched in the numbers like a robot and as soon as it reached one of those BPO offices in India, I started the saga all over again. I overheard one of the representatives telling the one talking to me ‘Please tell her that the issue has been flagged and that the relevant department is going to call me soon’. I replied to him that we are going to make a fresh booking now and that he can do whatever he wishes to. The new booking cost 350 HK$ more than the old one.

We moved to the room and within the next 10 minutes, I got a call on the room’s landline. A lady who sounded American informed me that their system cancelled my booking a couple of days back and that I would get a refund in my account within a few days. I asked her what was the reason of cancellation and she told me that their systems had a problem. I got a little annoyed at that point and asked her why was I never informed and what did the following line even meant:

Your reservation is booked. No need to call us to reconfirm this reservation.

She repeated that it was a system problem and they can’t do anything about it. She did not answer any of my questions nor was she apologetic. I was very disappointed and felt cheated. I’m never going to book another hotel with Expedia, doubtful if I would even book any flights.

But nevertheless, enjoy these photos.

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