Tuesday Morning CX Thoughts: Sometimes “Sorry” is not enough

Things can go wrong

Like most customers, I’ve had my share of poor customer experiences.  However, I usually sit in the position of second-guessing how management handled the situation and where I might advise they had done things differently.  In general, I like to view the customer experience failures through two lenses – the process and the service approach.  

This past weekend was Father’s Day and with that was a plan that included time at sea and the day closing with dinner overlooking the bay from one of the most coveted restaurants on the island.  The package had to be sought out and reserved over three months in advance and comes with a high price tag and upfront deposit.  

The day before the exciting adventure, we received a call that the gorgeous views from the restaurant would not be available as a large party wanted to reserve the entire restaurant for an event.  We would be relegated to a windowless function room where we could still order from the same menu, but would not have the ambiance that we pay for.  Determined to make it work, we decided to keep the reservation since it had to be made so far in advance.  Then, as we arrived for the first part of the excursion, the ride on a catamaran, we got the call that the boat would not be available for at least four hours due to maintenance and scheduling confusion.  

Both parts of this special event on a special day were reduced to just a disappointing trip to a parking garage.  To add to that, a fire alarm required us to evacuate the property until the fire department could clear it, resulting in us just waiting to leave while simultaneously having a very disappointed family.  

What is the correct fix?

I am certain many have a disappointing story like this one, but as someone that sees both sides of the experience equation, what happened next is the exact circumstances a brand should avoid when dealing with their customers.  When informed that the catamaran trip was canceled, we had decided to cancel both parts, only to be told that we would lose our restaurant deposit because we had the opportunity to cancel the day prior.  

When pleading our case, we were told we would have to take it up with the manager during the work week.  We also asked that they put us in for a time for the next available reservation so we could retain our deposit and still have the experience only to be told that no reservations are available in the next three months and that we would have to book it on our own.  When we asked about validating parking, we were told that they validate only for paying customers.  When I reminded them that they were keeping our deposit, the response was simply “a deposit doesn’t make you a customer”.  

Turning disappointment into opportunity

When I reflect on what happened, I see many places where someone could have stepped up in an attempt to make things better, instead we could not get an apology out of anyone until we had already returned home and had a message stating “they were sorry about our experience”, “there was nothing they could have done”, “if we get a reservation in the future to remind them and they’ll try to apply our forfeited deposit” and “we hope this won’t result in a poor review”.  

Unfortunately, this situation wouldn’t even make it into most closed-loop customer feedback systems because there was never an opportunity for a survey (within QuestionPro, you are able to create a customer service event ticket even without a transaction, one of my favorite features).  Even if it did become a case, there was little empathy from the employees we spoke with and likely would have been a closed case after the “apology” was issued regardless of the outcome with the customer.  

Along the way, I saw several opportunities where the venue could have made amends with us and the other customers that lost their opportunity to participate in a unique experience.  In all these cases, it only took the requirement that they consider the customers’ perspective on the situation and build an open dialogue.  None of these would have cost anything more than a little time and listening.  Unfortunately, they ended up losing the commitment of customers that would provide repeat business as local patrons.  Next week, I’ll discuss CX EQ in more detail and how it can help you to predict and avoid churn risk.  

Parting thought:  On June 30th, you’ll want to attend a QuestionPro event hosted by Dan Fleetwood and Vivek Bhaskaran.  Join them as they announce how we Democratize research with QuestionPro Insights Hub.  Click here to register.