Sunday, 1 February 2015

On communications and customer service

Early morning view of Cayo Las Brujas
I have recently returned from a trip that was like walking into a living case study into why I have helped 15below produce the software it does for the past decade.

I was a on a twin centre trip to Cuba and on arrival our rep gave us the pickup time to leave Havana which was very early (3am!). We queried this to confirm it was correct and simply told "yes, 3 am". What we later found out was that it was the start of pickups and NOT a specific time. In addition, ours was the last hotel. we had no information on flight number or a published flight schedule (later found out it's a very informal timetable, leaves when everyone has turned up!)

Now if waiting for nearly two hours, before even boarding a coach to the airport at that time, weren't bad enough the hotel staff weren't that interested and the telephones using the hotel phones couldn't get through to the rep's number - it didn't help that I don't speak Spanish and the mobile network's prerecorded message didn't make sense to me.


So, after over an hour of worrying about missing the flight (and whether to get a taxi!) the pickup turned up.

This is where things started going smoothly right?

Not quite .... the plane made two stops and baggage was unloaded at the first. No announcements where made. It then took two attempts to get answer as to if it was a required stop (later found out from the announcements on the return leg that it was an international airport on the route and yes, was a scheduled stop).

On second stop, still no announcement but could see the airport name so proceeded to get off. On the way out - bit late! - was asked if wanted Cayo Santa Maria. the final coach delivered us to the hotel at around 10am. From getting up over a 7 hour trial by miscommunication.

Several things this episode highlighted to me:

  • How used I am to being able to use mobile for voice and data at home (and how helpless being deprived of it makes me)
  • How I rely on published schedules and flight status queries
  • Information about stops *is* useful on itineraries
  • How one simple piece of information at the start (pick up time is for first hotel) could have saved stress and worry (which was compounded by the very early start!)
  • Communications form an important part of both customer service and the overall customer experience
  • I need to learn Spanish :-)

Finally, the second rep at the beach resort was much clearer - without any prompting - on the pickup times for an excursion and the transfer home.

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