In a service business – whether a cruise line, an air conditioning company, a bank, a website designer…you name it…not only is it important to deliver exceptional quality service the first time, but it’s important to correct a problem quickly with empathy and a solution that meets the customer’s expectations.
We recently came back from a trip overseas on a cruise that was very fun, we had been on that cruise line before and would definitely take that cruise line again, but …there were 6 incidents during the trip where the individual(s) who handled the situation DROPPED THE BALL and lost the opportunity to make it a positive experience.
We were told (written instructions on our boarding information) that our ship would board at one of the 3 ports in our embarkation city. When we arrived at that port – no ship. Called the 800 number which was closed in the U.S. at that time…but no message about a port change. And no email or text advising us even though they had our email and cell phone. Finally, the first port‘s representative advised us our ship was at one of the other ports 15 minutes away. RESOLUTION After lodging our complaint, we were given an apology for the inconvenience and a $50 ship credit. I mentioned to the Purser’s Desk that a simple recording when we called in would have been so easy to correct the problem: “If you are sailing on the _____ out of ____ on Friday September 12, the port has been changed to _______.”
KEY CUSTOMER SERVICE RULE: COMMUNICATE CHANGES WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS!
AVOID UNPLEASANT SURPRISES!
A crew door right outside my brother and sister-in-law’s cabin kept slamming the first night, and squeaking, every time a crew member came through. It took 3 calls to the Purser’s desk to get someone to come down – the gal answering the phone didn’t believe her - and they finally fixed the hydraulic the next day so the door wouldn’t slam, but they never in the 10 days applied WD-44 to eliminate the squeak.
KEY CUSTOMER SERVICE RULE: BELIEVE THE CUSTOMER
KEY CUSTOMER SERVICE RULE: FIX THE WHOLE PROBLEM, NOT JUST ONE PIECE OF IT
KEY CUSTOMER SERVICE RULE: BE RESPONSIVE/TIMELY/URGENCY
On the first day we met our cabin steward and he was wonderful, but my brother and sister-in-law never met their steward that first day, which was a promised service. And never met her for 3 days!
KEY CUSTOMER SERVICE RULE: DELIVER ON PROMISES
Their room was not being cleaned timely, as ours was. The first day it was cleaned at 4pm, second day at 3pm…ours was always cleaned by lunch. Our steward offered to clean their room, which was next to his last room to clean (two doors from us.) When I went to the Purser’s Desk to find out why their room wasn’t being cleaned as timely as ours, and to advise that our steward would be happy to add their room to his list, I was told by the Head of Housekeeping (are you ready for this?):
Their steward had 7 cabins on Deck 1 and just their cabin on Deck 2
Their steward was new – her first week on the job
Our steward could not clean their cabin because his key would was not coded to open their door – and when I asked if they COULD code his key to their door was told “That’s not possible/not procedure!”
I requested that they have her clean her one 2nd deck cabin first every morning and then go down to the 1st Deck
RESOLUTION: Their room was cleaned at 10am every morning for the rest of the trip.
BUT, their room never got a fun, towel animal each night on the bed like we did, they never got a Do Not Disturb sign in the paper work on their desk, and their steward never replaced the breakfast order form after they used it the first morning. When they saw their steward the last night before dinner, while packing, she asked if they liked chocolate…and of course they said YES! They didn’t get any chocolates that night but we got extra fancy chocolates for the last night!
KEY CUSTOMER SERVICE RULE: THERE ARE VERY FEW INSTANCES WHERE “CAN’T” IS AN ACCEPTABLE ANSWER
KEY CUSTOMER SERVICE RULE: CREATE PROCEDURES THAT ARE CUSTOMER FRIENDLY, EVEN IF THEY MIGHT REQUIRE OPERATIONAL “REWORKING” ON YOUR PART
KEY CUSTOMER SERVICE RULE: TRAIN YOUR NEW STAFF – AND REVIEW THEIR WORK EARLY TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE DOING IT CORRECTLY
On our very first tour – an expensive full day tour to another city – all of us voiced concerns to the Tour Guide about the difficulty of us hearing and understanding him. Many of us asked at least 10 times during the 90 minute journey for him to speak slower and more clearly…the static on the bus mike and his very fast pace of speaking coupled with his accent made it almost impossible to listen to his narrative. We just wanted him to SLOW DOWN. He was very knowledgeable about the area and we were so disappointed to miss all the good and interesting information. Several of us even demonstrated to him what we meant by SLOWER but he never adjusted his pace even one notch down the entire 90 minutes to the city. He had his “script” and he was going to get through it…despite us! Thankfully, he did not narrate on the way back to our port! We all mentioned the problem to the Excursion Director and she was going to tell the tour company and get back to us…but we never heard any resolution.
KEY CUSTOMER SERVICE RULE: WHEN YOU RECEIVE A COMPLAINT, MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW-UP AND PROVIDE AN ANSWER/RESOLUTION TO THE CUSTOMER
KEY CUSTOMER SERVICE RULE: COMMUNICATIONS AGAIN. WHEN SHARING INFORMATION – ON THE PHONE OR IN PERSON – SPEAK AT A PACE THAT IS UNDERSTANDABLE…AND IF A CUSTOMER SPECIFICALLY REQUESTS YOU SLOW DOWN OR SPEAK LOUDER OR SPEAK CLEARER…RESPOND AND ASK IF YOU ARE MORE UNDERSTANDABLE
When we all disembarked at a port to wander around the town, there was a small tent with a young lady behind a counter passing out maps. She was dressed in a very low top SAFETY PINNED together but barely holding everything in (I know, I’m getting picky in my old age but REALLY? My brother did NOT complain), and when asked questions about how to find things in town her response was “I no speak English” and “this my first day I don’t know.” Being the experienced travelers that we are, we found all the places we wanted but sensed extreme frustration from our other less adventuresome passengers as they asked her questions and tried to understand her. When we returned for lunch a few hours later she wasn’t there. I mentioned it to the Excursion Director that evening and she told me she heard complaints, went down the gangway, and sent the young lady away. This person was assigned by the Port and Excursion told me she had no control over who they send. That wasn’t a very acceptable answer to the problem…when customers are paying lots of money to be furnished information and advice during their voyage then maybe a local tour company could have been engaged to staff the map table? There must have been some alternative to simply being at the mercy of the Port.
KEY CUSTOMER SERVICE RULE: AGAIN, DON’T SAY “CAN’T” – FIND A BETTER SOLUTION
KEY CUSTOMER SERVICE RULE: PROFESSIONAL ATTIRE WHEN INTERFACING WITH THE PUBLIC – NOT BAR ATTIRE
KEY CUSTOMER SERVICE RULE: ENSURE THAT TRAINED, EFFICIENT COMMUNICATORS ARE STAFFING YOUR FRONT DESK, YOUR RETAIL FLOOR, AND YOUR PHONES.
I was very thorough when I completed the cruise evaluation form, and pleased that a day after we returned I received a call from the Director of Customer Service at their headquarters. She agreed with ALL my concerns and I will be interested to hear her responses.
Remember, CUSTOMER SERVICE isn’t just being nice and friendly and smiling…it’s having the skills, knowledge, and professionalism to deliver good service when things are going well, and to provide satisfactory answers and resolutions when they don’t go well. Anticipate problems and fix them before they occur…but certainly correct them quickly when they do occur!
I HOPE OCTOBER IS A GREAT MONTH FOR YOU AND YOUR CUSTOMERS!