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Rommel Anacan

Welcome to my blog on MFI! This blog allows me to have an ongoing conversation with multifamily professionals like you. My focus is on helping you and your companies succeed by helping you optimize the quality of your relationships. If you'd like more information about me, my company and the ways that I can help you, please visit my website at www.RelationshipDifference.com

A Case For Helping 'Stupid' Customers

A Case For Helping 'Stupid' Customers

 

Not too long ago I received a letter from an airline asking me to try out their “platinum” upgrade for a couple of months, for free. As part of this upgrade trial I’d receive free seat upgrades when available and access to the airline’s airport lounge. Needless to say, I was very excited about sitting in first class and being able to sip free adult beverages before my flights. 

Then I did something stupid … I accidentally started my free trial before I wanted to (it’s a long story) which meant that the flights that I had coming up that would have enabled me to take advantage of my (temporary) “baller status” would come after my trial upgrade had expired. 

The baller becomes the blockhead!

After years of working in customer service, I had now become one of those customers who did something wrong-and wanted the airline to do something about it. (What do people say about payback being a …. ?) 

I contacted the airline and explained what had happened and wanted to know if they’d grant me an exception to their policy, as a customer service gesture. Basically, I wanted them to extend my free upgrade by a week so I could take at least one flight in luxury. They told me no. Twice. 

In the second email I received I was told by the customer service representative that “As I mentioned previously, if we grant you this exception, it would be unfair to everyone else who has complied by the terms of the promotion.” 

Translation: Listen-everyone else read the instructions. It’s not our fault you’re too stupid to read them and follow them! Enjoy economy seating, MORON!

Okay, maybe my interpretation is a little biased. 

Here’s the deal … I was wrong. I made the mistake of hitting submit online before knowing when the promotion would begin. The airline was well within their “right” not to grant me the exception, even if I felt their response could’ve been phrased better. I get it! I was wrong. 

But, what opportunity did the airline miss out on?

What would’ve happened if the airline said, “Rommel-while the promotion was specifically for only two months, I can also understand that there might have been some misunderstanding on your part. We’ll grant you a one week extension to the promotion so that you can experience the benefits of platinum membership in our loyalty program. We’re confident once you experience this, you’ll always want to fly with us.”

How excited would I have been? (Very!) How excited would I have been about the airline? (Very!) Could they have earned more of my business in the future? (Probably!) 

Customer Service isn’t always black and white

So often in customer service we get too caught up in rules, policies and procedures and we lose sight of the opportunities to create positive experiences for our customers, so that they continue to be our customers. 

When the customer is wrong (like I was) and you have EVERY right to shut them down, it doesn’t mean that you need to, or that it’s even a smart thing to do! 

When a customer is in front of you and you want to drop the hammer, think about how you can TURN that situation into an amazing opportunity to “wow!” the customer. It might be worth it!

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Great story, Rommel, and not only did they miss the chance to create loyalty by being flexible, but they also lost sight of their fundamental goals. The very idea of the promotion was for you to test the waters of this higher service. If you can't test that out, then the whole program is worthless for them. So in an effort to be strict, they ruined their own goal for themselves.

Thanks for sharing!

  Brent Williams
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Thanks, Brent...and your comments echoed what I was thinking. The whole trip, as I passed by the lounges I couldn't get into, and saw the seats I could've sat in on the plane, the frustration kept coming up! They really missed an opportunity.

  Rommel Anacan
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I'm trying to relate this to a property scenario. How does one decide which stupid person to make an exception for? How would you train, for example, a leasing specialist which resident you can let slide on a late fee or who gets to park in an empty carport or garage just before the softball size hail hits?

So, is the offer limited to a once in a lifetime moment?
"So often in customer service we get too caught up in rules, policies and procedures and we lose sight of the opportunities to create positive experiences for our customers, so that they continue to be our customers." I think people are sometimes just not creative enough to come up with an alternative solution. Maybe they shouldn't extend the period, but perhaps give you another shot at it at a future time.

It's just hard to know how to make a judgment call when it could affect more than one person. Had the customer service rep extended your offer, Rommel, how will it affect the next person who asks? Does the next person get to be an exception, too, because what is fair for one should be fair for all? How does the rep know when it is all right to make an exception to this particular policy?

Just playing Devil's Advocate.

  Mindy Sharp
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hi Mindy, I think those are great questions and absolutely fair to ask! I think the answer is found in the moment. For much of my life I worried about doing the right thing all the time and what was proper etiquette and procedure---so I neglected to ask for discounts when warranted, or just because, I didn't fight for the promo price I saw in an ad but wasn't offered in the store etc. But now, I figure I can ask, and someone can always say no. I have come to believe that in many instances there isn't a long-running narrative in customer service, but a series of separate events-and each event is important only to the players in that game. When the person from the airline gave me his spiel about fairness to other customers, I honestly wondered, "what do I care about fairness to other customers?" If they ask for an exception the airline can see if it makes business sense for them to grant it~and sometimes it will and sometimes it won't. I just hope people see the big picture and miss the "forest for the trees" as the old saying goes. Great questions, Mindy!!

  Rommel Anacan
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I agree with you completely on our opportunities to have a bit of gray areas at times. I do think to train your staff consistently they need to know the policy as black and white so they are not wishy washy with the customer. I just had a run in with the airline and it was not pleasant, air travel is NOT glamorous.

  Nancy
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hi Nancy~Thanks for reading and commenting!! I agree...that people need to know the black and white and the rules and should try to always enforce those P and P's.With the knowledge that sometimes it makes more business sense to waive a $20 fee than argue about it for 4 hours (costing the company $80.) And yes, air travel is NOT glamorous! (=

  Rommel Anacan
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I couldn't agree more that customer service is not white and black, actually had that been the case we would not need customer service reps. I also believe however that the reason for policies and procedures is to ensure that there is some measure of fairness and consistency when dealing with your customers. The challenge for the most part is where do you draw the line, .. if need be?
Part of the reason for the promotion would have been to create positive experiences for Romel and other customers in order to encourage them to come back over and over again and possibly choosing to fly first class all the time. Well, this experience hardly resulted in the desired outcome for anyone. As a matter of fact, it was an unpleasant surprise once Romel found out he should have done a better job reading the fine print. He was wrong, so what?
I think the airline had a wonderful opportunity to learn from this experience and I hope they did. Where was the trigger preventing him from taking advantage of the special when he pushed the button to complete the transaction on his keyboard? The system should have been designed to issue a warning about the impending error at the very least or prevent him from completing the transaction in the first place. Romel may have been disappointed had that happened, but it would have given him the opportunity to better educate himself on the promo, thereby avoiding the unpleasant surprise. It is hard to tell how many other customers had a similar experience but I doubt Romel was the only one. Even if he was, the company should have thanked him for pointing our flaws in the manner in which their system was designed, made accommodations for him and then proceed with the necessary adjustments to prevent other customers from a similar agony. That would be a true win win situation for everyone.
Had Romel and others (if any) decided to proceed with a transaction after specifically being advised that the special would not be applicable, then there...

I couldn't agree more that customer service is not white and black, actually had that been the case we would not need customer service reps. I also believe however that the reason for policies and procedures is to ensure that there is some measure of fairness and consistency when dealing with your customers. The challenge for the most part is where do you draw the line, .. if need be?
Part of the reason for the promotion would have been to create positive experiences for Romel and other customers in order to encourage them to come back over and over again and possibly choosing to fly first class all the time. Well, this experience hardly resulted in the desired outcome for anyone. As a matter of fact, it was an unpleasant surprise once Romel found out he should have done a better job reading the fine print. He was wrong, so what?
I think the airline had a wonderful opportunity to learn from this experience and I hope they did. Where was the trigger preventing him from taking advantage of the special when he pushed the button to complete the transaction on his keyboard? The system should have been designed to issue a warning about the impending error at the very least or prevent him from completing the transaction in the first place. Romel may have been disappointed had that happened, but it would have given him the opportunity to better educate himself on the promo, thereby avoiding the unpleasant surprise. It is hard to tell how many other customers had a similar experience but I doubt Romel was the only one. Even if he was, the company should have thanked him for pointing our flaws in the manner in which their system was designed, made accommodations for him and then proceed with the necessary adjustments to prevent other customers from a similar agony. That would be a true win win situation for everyone.
Had Romel and others (if any) decided to proceed with a transaction after specifically being advised that the special would not be applicable, then there would have been no reason for them to complain later on. In this case the customer specifically made a decision that may not have been completely in his/her best interest.

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  Ed

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