I’ve been around what seems like the world in the last 2 weeks, including a stopover at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, and I feel like I’ve seen it all in the spectrum of customer care and customer experience: the awful, the decent, and the sublime.
The “It’s a Small World” ride, which I experienced again for the first time in 30+ years, was a poignant cry at this critical time of war and conflict, for peace and unity across cultures. Traveling these past two weeks brought me to two continents, multiple cities and hotels, and dozens of touch points with brands and companies. What I experienced was so diverse and polarized – from inconsistent customer care and non-existent attention to detail to the most detail-oriented and expectation-exceeding imaginable. I can conclude that the customer care world is not a united “small world” nor is it peaceful, and it is highly differentiated regardless of what geography, culture, and language the interaction between customer and brand.
As a nearshore Spanish call center, the customer care expectations and pre-conceived notions one might have had on these trips were entirely challenged. I emerged empowered with a renewed sense and commitment to the types of experiences and satisfaction I want our contact center to provide our clients’ customers. I truly enjoy letting my own customer experience unfold new insights on customer care, better preparing Callzilla to offer our clients’ customers more optimal, resolution-based, and satisfactory experiences both for nearshore English as well as Spanish, making the frustrating portion of my travels worth it.
To kick off my two week journey, my work travels took me to Bogotá, Colombia, site of our nearshore outsourced Spanish contact center. Then it was on to Pereira, Colombia to attend a family reunion, and then back through Miami International Airport (MIA) for a one day of rest at home, and finally on to Orlando for more meetings and a planned two-day rest with my family at Disney.
The worst-of-the-worst is in our backyard
1. Hands-down worst: MIA Airport. International travel used to largely be punctuated by the perception that foreign airports were like cesspools: dirty, rife with poor service, long lines, and unfriendly staff and airport officials while at our airports, it was home-sweet-home. I could not have felt more embarrassed and angry upon arrival to MIA airport from Bogota, Colombia that famous Sunday afternoon where not only did nothing go as planned, but the lack of service, poor logistics, and a highly overcrowded baggage claim area could have easily turned into a mini riot as well as very dangerous example of what happens when too many people are crammed into a small area with no signage or instructions on foot traffic flow.
The first thing that many international travelers experienced on their arrival into the “first world” was disorganization and conditions that one used to find as commonplace in those countries but have given way to more organized, modern, and intuitive processes that are no longer synonymous with the third world. The dangerous, uncomfortable conditions presented by MIA, without a doubt, were “third-world” providing one of the most dissatisfying user-experiences I could have possibly imagined. And even worse, there is no clear entity responsible, between the relationship between the County that administers the airport, the airlines that pass the responsibility to contracted workers, and the workers that blame the county for budget cutbacks, as well as the TSA.
2. Runner Up: Marriott Grande Vista, Orlando, Florida. How many times – prior to arrival and during arrival and post-arrival – did I need to request a crib for my toddler son? If you guessed three times, you are right. The importance of requesting a crib would seem obvious, right? It’s necessary for the sleep of one of the guests in the room; sleep is a critical element to what a hotel offers. I still can’t get how this Marriott didn’t deliver the crib until the following day and only after a 3rd phone call. We voted with our feet and wallets and canceled two additional days of reservations at that site.
Outstanding, expectation-busting Customer Experiences
1. Hotels.com phone customer care: I reserve most of my hotels for business and leisure through this site, and they shined in helping me make adjustments to various reservations.
2. Walgreen’s Walk-in Health Clinic: Along the way, I came down with pneumonia and had to schedule a weekend appointment to get checked out and get some medication. Scheduling the appointment couldn’t have been easier, I was taken on time by the Nurse Practitioner, and received the relative relief I had hoped to receive.
3. Waldorf Astoria Orlando: They wow’ed us. Every aspect of the hotel was a wonderful experience from parking staff greeting us by name, asking if I was feeling better, asking if our son was feeling better to the cleaning staff displaying the same care for our comfort and health. The quality of the facilities was outstanding, but most notable was the personal touch and treatment that the staff displayed to us as welcomed guests.
Conclusion: The US along with a few other western nations pioneered and perfected the theory and practice of customer service and customer experience. Some US companies and brands demonstrate unwavering commitment to that while others, because of business model or simply lack of focus or priority, have allowed the importance of the customer to erode.
Companies like Marriott place an enormous emphasis on the customer, so when they can’t execute on simple customer requests, its indicative of possible structural problems: lack of objectives, supervision, communication of customer requests, or others.
Entities like the Miami Airport, as such an important gateway and symbol to our country, must naturally understand their importance, yet when there are so many fingers in the overall pie (local government, unions, the TSA, the outsourced airport staff, the airlines), its easy to distribute blame and not take ownership of something so delicate as customer experience.
Serving the public and serving customers is an honor and must be treated as such. We are all one call or video recording away from having examples of our worst behavior displayed on YouTube or Facebook by our frustrated customers.
The potential damage to our brands is far too powerful to allow. My recent travels have reshaped my view on the incredible importance of personal touch and respect, referring to customers by their name and assisting them until their matter is satisfactorily resolved, no matter how long it takes or the amount of effort involved. Shining examples of this are fewer and far between, but happily, they do exist. It is up to us in the customer care and customer experience professions to ensure that these become more the rule than then exception.