This episode is all about customer service, acknowledging mistakes when they occur, and using the recovery paradox to build your brand and customer loyalty. One of my previous podcast guests said that consumers today are far wiser and savvier than they use to be because they have technology at their fingertips and they are not afraid to use it.
Seeing a friend reading online reviews about a restaurant before deciding where to eat is no longer unusual, in fact, I’d say it’s quite normal, and therefore not only are consumers wiser and savvier, they also know what good and bad service look like.
In August of this year, I had problems arise with two companies, Qantas and a hotel in Cairns where I ran a one-day workshop, and I’ve been waiting until now to talk about them both because I wanted to see how they handled my concerns.
I was flying back from Canberra to Cairns, via Sydney in the late afternoon and to cut a long story short Sydney was hit by major electrical storms and the airport was temporarily shut down. Well, so we thought.
My flight was due to depart at 5 pm, but it was one delay after another until eventually it was midnight and all flights out of Sydney were cancelled.
Of course, you could imagine the mayhem and noise in the airport with thousands upon thousands of people stranded and everyone headed, as instructed, to the baggage carousel trying to locate their bags.
It was a free for all and respect for your fellow man had gone straight out the window. People were yelling at each and also screaming at the Qantas staff for answers, and to be honest they knew as much as we did.
It looked like it was the end of the world I do hope we never have a zombie apocalypse because watching the behaviour of some people was embarrassing.
Eventually, an announcement came over the loudspeaker telling everyone to find accommodation up to $200, keep the receipt and to contact Qantas afterwards to claim it back.
I tried desperately to find a room but by the time I got my bag it was impossible and I gave up about 2 am.
I checked my Qantas App and there was no update on my cancelled flight so I thought to bugger this, it's time to take action.
Jetstar has a flight leaving at 6 am and that’s only 4 hours away, I’ll book the ticket through the Qantas App, which was the same dollar value as the accommodation and sleep at the airport. I’ll then contact Qantas and see if I can claim the money back for the flight.
As I made this decision and booked the flight, unbeknown to me, Qantas had already booked me on a Qantas flight around the same time.
I now had two flights booked.
I tried cancelling my Jetstar flight via the Qantas App, but it said I had to contact Jetstar Customer Service. Well, of course, I couldn’t because their phones were still congested at 2 am.
So I had a bright idea, at 5.30am I’ll go to the Qantas counter when it opens, explain the situation, and they’ll be able to contact Jetstar and cancel the flight.
The Qantas check-in counter told me they couldn’t do this and suggested I checked my bags in now to secure my Qantas flight and walk over to the Jetstar terminal, which was only about five minutes away.
Unfortunately, Jetstar said NO because I missed the cutoff to cancel a flight.
By now I was so tired I didn’t really care and thought I’ll sort it all out later when I eventually get home, which I did.
I wrote to Qantas, explained the whole situation and they gave me a refund on my flight, which to be honest I was not expecting. And to be truthful I wasn’t even going to write to them and try, but my wife insisted that I did and I’m glad I listened.
So it’s a big THANK YOU TO QANTAS, not only for having a great team at the Sydney airport but also for their customer service department on how prompt they handled my concern. They immediately acknowledge my problem via email and kept me updated throughout the whole decision process. Very professional.
Unfortunately, I didn't have the same experience with the hotel in Cairns.
Now don’t get me wrong, it was a nice venue and very affordable for running an event, but the old saying ‘you get what you pay for’ is probably true here.
I booked a full day event for 46 people, which included morning and afternoon tea and lunch, but was told I had to pay for 50 people as this is what I originally booked for and didn’t give them 30-days notice of the change, which I did but I couldn’t be bothered arguing over 4 places.
When I turned up on the day they had only set the room up for 32 people. What the?
Listen To My Gut
Fortunately, my gut told me to arrive extra early because I had an uneasy feeling because the manager was the third person I had dealt with over a 6-month period.
When I pointed out the error to the manager there was no apology and she basically didn’t care. She grabbed one of her team members, who I must say was great and told him to quickly bring in some more tables and chairs.
They used the wrong sized tables and you could not seat 46 people. No one attending my event probably noticed I never sat down and a few other people were sitting on stools. It actually made them look like planned helpers, so we got away with it in the end.
The next issue was the food, there was not enough. Because they set the room up for 32 people, I think they only catered for 32 people. I even told the manager my concerns and she disagreed and said there should have been plenty.
She had the same attitude when I first mentioned there as only 32 seats. When I first told her she said I was wrong, there are 46. I had to make her come into the room and count them.
I won’t keep going on with everything else that went wrong that day, but what I would like to point out is they sent me an email after my event asking for feedback and I sent them a very long response and all I got back was crickets.
A simple apology or an acknowledgement of ‘we dropped the ball’ would have been nice, but instead just crickets.
The Recovery Paradox
So is there a reason for sharing these two stories? Yes, there is. It brings to light the Recovery Paradox.
The recovery paradox is a situation in which a customer/client or patient thinks more highly of a business (or person) after the business has corrected a problem with their service or product, compared to how they would regard the business if non-faulty service or product had been provided.
I discussed this subject in Episode 12: The Recovery Paradox with Dr Jesse Green and how problems and complaints can build brand loyalty if handled the right way.
Qantas Was The Winner
In my two stories, you can see that Qantas has come out smelling of roses, while the Cairns hotel smells a little like swamp water.
So the next time you get a complaint about your business or service do not immediately react and get all defensive, and start calling them idiots, look at it as an opportunity to learn.
And it may be an opportunity to build an even better relationship with the customer/client or patient.
This is exactly what happened with Dr Jesse Green and I. We have a very interesting story on how we connected and now, because of the recovery paradox we not only work together, we are best of friends.
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