We’re Here To Serve – Yeah, right!
Before we get started, you should know that I’m not in a very good mood this morning. January has been a bit rough, with three deaths in the family over the past couple of weeks, the weather is a bitch and I’ve just spent the better part of three hours in an unbelievable cock-up with online travel arrangements.
It is unbelievable how poor customer service is these days.
It was a simple process actually. Maggie is going to Scotland in April to visit the youngest daughter who is taking her Masters at the University of Edinburgh. Usually when we travel, we use a travel agent although we have used Expedia to book hotels from time to time. We like to pay as we go, so we use a Visa-debit card rather than credit. That means the money is taken from our bank account immediately and we can all sleep soundly secure in the knowledge that the universe is unfolding as it should.
It appears that there is a need for some remedial courses in universe unfolding.
Expedia doesn’t accept Visa-debit cards. Actually, let me rephrase that. It does accept them for hotels and car rentals just not for stand alone flights. They blame the airlines for that.
Remember that tidbit for later in the rant.
With Expedia not willing to accept money instead of credit, I logged into Travelocity; you know, the one that uses a garden gnome statue to advertise itself. After dealing with them, I’m convinced that they must have spent almost as much money on their customer service operation as they did on their nickel and dime television commercials.
I booked the flight (after setting up the mandatory account). No problem. I paid for the flight no problem – well – actually there was a problem. Travelocity (and the airlines, apparently) are quite happy to accept Visa-debit so the transaction went through. It just didn’t go through for the quoted price.
Now try and keep up with this because it starts to get a bit complicated.
I booked Maggie not only for the same trip on the same day through Travelocity that I tried to book on Expedia – it was the same bloody plane. KLM was prepared to fly her over for $883.00 Cdn if I booked on Expedia but wanted $903.00 (all taxes and fees included) to fly her on the same day on the same plane, if I booked her flight on Travelocity.
No problem, I was feeling a bit extravagant so I authorized the extra $16.00, completed the payment information, hit the complete transaction button and voila! What I didn’t realize at the time was that the extra $16 would grow almost as rapidly as invested capital thanks to the miracle of compound interest.
The payment wasn’t what I authorized or that Travelocity had confirmed before I completed the transaction. The new price was $976.90. I decided not to let it ruin my day and chocked it up to experience and the fact that January 2014 is just not going to be pleasant.
Fifteen minutes later, I went online to do some banking and to confirm that the payment for Maggie’s trip had gone through. It had but again, unfortunately, it was not for the amount I had authorized. This was the description of the transaction in my bank account.
Under description it read KLM Royal $976.00 (so far so good). Under debit it read $1113.56. In other words, they had put through a payment of $1113.00 for an invoice of $976.00.
To make matters even more annoying, Travelocity sent me a confirmation email in which they outlined all of the trip details and confirmed payment of $976.90 so, I called their customer service department, conveniently located in Mumbai, India.
I called the toll free number and after punching a bunch of 1s and 2s in response to the automated receptionist’s questions, I finally got a human being not that it mattered all that much. After twenty minutes on the phone with Mina over in sunny Mumbai, I gave up. I had no idea what she was saying beyond telling me that she was very sorry but not to worry – it would correct itself.
I hung up and called again hoping to get a customer service agent I could understand and who wouldn’t pepper the conversation with apologies and platitudes. This time I got Adrian. Great – perhaps a North American. Wrong. His accent was even worse than Mina’s and was compounded by the fact that his head set didn’t work well. It kept cutting in and out, making crackling noises that could be heard half way around the world from Mumbai to Quebec.
I gave up and called my bank. My bank identified the issue. The airline had put the $976 through in U.S. funds and the $1113 amount was the conversion to Canadian. The problem, of course, is that I was dealing with Travelocity Canada, the price was quoted in Canadian funds and at least one of the airlines (West jet) is bloody Canadian.
The bank suggested I call KLM Royal Dutch Airlines which I did.
They were very pleasant about it but they had only charged $976.90 Cdn. They suggested I call Travelocity although they were kind enough to offer to cancel the flight so that I could rebook it later at the new price of $1536.00 Cdn.
Back to Travelocity where I was informed that, in fact, the fault is theirs and that lately it has been a recurring problem that will correct itself. I should receive a refund for the $136 rate conversion fee within the next billing cycle. I asked what is the billing the cycle and was told that was up to my bank. They also offered to cancel the flight with no penalty.
The second question I asked was simple. If this was a recurring problem, why wouldn’t they fix it? No answer, just another apology for the inconvenience.
It’s unbelievable. Three and a half hours of time wasted talking to people who don’t have a clue working for companies so oblivious to the basic tenets of customer service that they can’t do a simple thing like correct a mistake immediately or reverse a transaction and then correct it.
The bottom line is that they were successful at pulling the money out of my bank account within 15 minutes of the transaction but it will take a minimum of 5 -7 days to return the over-payment.
It’s not the first time I’ve encountered this ridiculous circumstance. The reason we don’t buy something with a credit card is because it does take too long for the charge to be reversed. You would have thought that with what pretty much equates to a cash transaction companies would be just a bit more clued in.
You might have thought that but you’d be wrong.
We had a dream once that technology would simplify our lives and expedite even the most complex operations. What fools we mortals be.
It was never about technology; it has always been and remains, about how companies (and government) treat their customers and the simple fact, my friends, is that they don’t treat us very well. It takes anywhere from 5 to 1o minutes working your way through a punch button phone menu just to get to a human being.
“Please listen carefully to the following menu as our menus have recently changed.” which is always followed by “All of our agents are currently serving other customers, please remain on the line for the next available representative.”
Bell remains the worst but too many others are rapidly catching up. From retailers to banks, from software companies to online travel booking organizations, the concept of customer service borders on non-existent. Much of it is now off-shore and I’ve spoken with customer service reps for Canadian companies in India, Africa and Columbia. I understand it saves the business money but quite honestly, I’m tired of getting less while paying more just to improve their bottom line.
The only difference between the quality of customer service provided by Canadian business and the government is that at least you can understand the stupid things you’re being told by the person at Service Canada. It isn’t any more helpful or less annoying but at least you can actually make out the words – in both official languages.
They don’t understand the meaning of the word service any more than Canadian business but at least you can make out what they’re saying.
A lot of smart people are always how much better and more responsive private industry is compared to the public sector.
Yeah, right! I’m still waiting to see it.
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