Sunday, 8 February 2015

On intentions and customer service

Waiter - B1 by Hartwig HKD
If the previous episode that I shared was like a case study for my working life, the this one was like living this blog post on Gross Incompetence Implies Bad Intentions.

We began the trip after an early start and arrived after 10hour flight (+5 hour time difference to add to the tiredness!) to find the room "not available" (later find due to problem rather than late checkout of previous guest). A meal was offered at this point on the hotel, but frankly with a body clock all over the place and constant grazing on an long haul flight really not needed.

Betsy, the Lady from customer service then made it her mission to make up for various things going wrong, starting with catching us at the bar and converting our free meal into the mojitos and chips (fries) that we had after the complimentary "Welcome Cocktail". I'm not sure which room we should have had, but we ended up in a senior suite that although tired looking had a great view.

The first problem that Betsy really had to use her customer service skills with was a pre-ordered room service breakfast that went to the wrong room. Slightly frustrating as waited for a breakfast to arrive rather than visit the restaurant, but no financial loss so no drama. 

Next to make up for the initial delay, then the breakfast incident, a private meal was changed from being around $30 a head to being complimentary. However, this was then confused with another more standard complimentary meal being hosted by the restaurant. 

A quick call down from Betsy and the candlelit supper was soon in full swing. Unfortunately candlelit has the side affect of being low level lighting and I was soon wearing steak sauce mixed with blood. Initially I got the response of laundry is closed but once the restaurant manager saw that I looked like the victim of a holloween horror slash attack, I was promised freshly laundered clothes in the hour. 

Luckily for them at this point I was laughing, the staff were all really friendly and trying to make the stay special. Unfortunately for them something just wasn't working making the hotel seem incompetent. 

The consultant in me would love to see their internal processes to see what could be improved - they had computer systems good enough to track we had stayed before and get attention on the return visit, they also had wireless phones for keeping in contact around the hotel. Maybe it was training? communication between departments? Reporting lines?

The product person in me wonders about the computer system and phones, as tools what was lacking in helping them perform their jobs? Did they use the same systems? How could a new tool do the job better or fill a niche not currently served?

I think the lesson I'll take from this is, a fairly obvious one, in that producing a tool for people in a service industry you are taking a certain amount of responsibility in making the end customer's life easier. So you need to look beyond what might be the requirement at hand, for example "move bookings from one queue to another", and see how that makes travellers lives easier, less stressful and ultimately happier. It might create a good customer experience if you do, it may also help the brand live its values.

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