Any business needs to present itself in its best possible light to its customers.
With a new customer every aspect of the business is on display, under review constantly as the customer gains the confidence in that business. From the website, initial customer contact to service provision.
We have all done this, be it from the corner shop, a local cafe, a hotel, to ordering things online. It’s pretty much a given isn’t it, the initial user experience is everything. Or is it?
Recently I came across what was a very bad initial customer experience – not that they aren’t that hard to find.
However I found myself pursuing with the experience, defending the vendor. All because of several recommendations from trusted friends.
We were looking for last minute accommodation in a nearby town. Having reviewed the available accommodation on the local tourist bureau web site, we selected one that met our dates and various requirements. We were advised to approached the accommodation provider directly. So we did…
This when the bad experience started. The website was something from 1998, plus it just didn’t seem to render correctly in any of our browsers, even Internet Explorer 6. Okay this is not that unusual in the accommodation trade as secondary accommodation directory sites (like the tourist bureau) or reseller vendors like wotif tend to do all the promotional work for the accommodation. Still it was a little off putting.
Anyway we used their online form and emailed them with our requirements and requested dates.
Time went by, two, three, four days, other emails were sent – no reply.
Maybe they where no longer in business. A quick check on a satellite photo from last month on Nearmaps showed they where still operational. Maybe they are just not that Internet savvy.
It was funny at this point I was making excuses from the vendor. Wanting them to shape up and be outstanding, a beacon of customer service with a rough exterior.
So we resorted to the old school methods – the telephone.
We rang them, mid morning, usually the best time to get any accommodation provider I have found. No answer, not even an answering machine. It’s at this point real alarm bells went off. I contacted the tourist bureau in question, yes they confirmed the business was still in operation, they suggested that we must have just been unlucky.
We rang at different times over the next few days, until we finally go someone on the phone. They explained in detail they were busy, and what did we want…
Clearly at this point I had somehow fallen into the set of Fawlty Towers. After some strained conversation we determined that they didn’t have the accommodation we were looking for. And yet they were advertising that they did. This fact they were not in the least bit concerned about.
After another phone call we learn that the same accommodation was available, just with one day difference. However they were clearly not prepared to tell us this unless we asked.
It gets better, to date we have never got a reply to the emails.
And finally it came time to confirm the booking, again it took several phone calls to reach one flustered employee. Who at least this time was helpful – Basil Fawlty mustn’t have been on duty that day.
The Trust Factor
Why did we even bother with this accommodation provider. Why did we give them chance after chance.
It was the trust factor. It was because we trusted the reviews and recommendations we had been given face to face from friends about the accommodation provider that really made us put aside the bad (well no service) that they were providing.
It’s something to consider, that recommendation factor, reviews, testimonials from real people, given freely, independently can be the key factor.
Despite all the bad experience and warning signs, all that is put aside, as appearances can be deceiving, but a word of mouth recommendation is worth pure gold! This we should be using on the web, as small business embraces the social media of the web, the recommendation of your customers is king.
Something to consider.