This is a true story about Expedia, human error and bad customer experience that ends with a nice bit of karma for the customer… 😉
Next week I’m running a workshop at UX Live in London and being from Manchester I needed to book somewhere in London to stay for the event. So earlier this week I went online to book my hotel. I don’t have a preferred hotel or website that I book with, so my starting place, like many people, is Google. I’m really into using Google map view to find hotels as I can see how close the hotel is to the tube and I can check long it will take me to get there from Euston and my place of work during that time, plus I can see all the prices of the hotels to find something within the budget I’m given.
(Image represents the Google UI. This is not the hotel I booked with)
Expedia user error
I’ve been extremely busy this week and I had about 10 different hotel tabs open to compare all the different hotels. Add to this distractions in the office and at some point during this process I accidentally chose dates in November as opposed to October.
I used the calendar date picker to select the last Wednesday to Saturday of the month, as opposed to focussing on the dates. I did this in either Google or Expedia, I can’t recall which one it was (probably Google) but it looked something like this:
It was the next day, less than 24 hours later, that I was looking at my calendar to book in a meeting when I noticed the hotel was there in my calendar for November! I instantly knew the mistake I’d made.
Expedia call centre experience
The ticket I’d booked was non-refundable because I knew I was definitely going to the event next week. However my mistake was a bit of an odd situation in that I didn’t need my reservation refunding and I wasn’t changing the date because I’d changed my mind – it was simply human error when using the website and it was a genuine mistake. My hope was that if I explained this and they could see it was less than 24 hours since I’d booked it that they’d understand this was a genuine mistake and change the booking.
I called the hotel first but they told me I needed to call Expedia to change the booking. So, I then called Expedia and got through to their call centre. The lady I spoke with said she would call the hotel to check if the dates could be changed, she also told me that if we were cut off she would call me back (I thought this was a very odd thing to say and immediately suspected that she was planning to cut me off despite me being incredibly polite in my request). Low and behold she put me on hold, then about 10 seconds later I heard background noise as if she had picked up the call then I was cut off!
20 minutes later and she didn’t call me back as promised so I called again…
This time I spoke with a different person and I explained what had happened, including my previous call. This gentleman said the same thing to me – that he would call the hotel and that if we were cut off he’d call me back. He put me on hold, after a few moments I then heard the background noise of the call centre followed by being cut off. He also didn’t call me back as promised.
I called again…
I explained to another lady what had happened and she told me she would call the hotel to check if they would accept the change in dates. Interestingly she didn’t say the line about ‘if we’re cut off I’ll call you back’ so I suspected she was actually planning to help me, unlike her colleagues. Unfortunately, she said the hotel were unwilling to change the dates as it’s a non-refundable booking and I’d basically have to wave goodbye to £300. I asked her for the number she called so I could call the hotel myself.
I called them and they said there was nothing they could do as it was the front of house number not the central reservations number, so the lady had called the wrong number anyway! There’s no wonder they couldn’t do anything. I wasn’t impressed. Yet another Expedia fail – these peeple were useless.
I called the hotel central reservations and would you believe it, they were willing to change the booking dates as long as I paid an extra £30 when I arrived at the hotel. Hooray! Yep sure, no problem! They said they’d call Expedia to get them to change the booking.
Later that day I had a call from Expedia – it turned out to be the last lady I spoke with. She said because of the change of dates I was to be refunded £30 as those dates were cheaper. She also said she was really pleased that she had been able to get a solution for me. Excuse me? Was this woman deluded? She hadn’t found the solution, I had!
This story gets better though…
Later, I received another call from Expedia. This gentleman had a very strong accent and he had to explain himself about 6 times to me because I simply didn’t understand what he was trying to tell me. I finally piece together that he wants to charge me £30 because there was a ‘human error’ earlier by the Expedia lady. Apparently she shouldn’t have refunded me the £30 because the booking was non-refundable.
When I made a human error they wouldn’t forgive it and would have happily taken £300 from me. They make an error and they want me to let it go and pay them back the £30.
They put me on hold so I found myself with time to think about this… There were so many great things going through my mind that I could say at this point… should I tell them I have a non-refundable policy like theirs… should I complain about how inept their service team is…
I found myself thinking back to how they treated me in my previous calls; they hung up on me. So I decided it was time for karma to prevail… let’s treat them in the same way they treat their customers and perhaps they’ll learn a valuable lesson…
I smiled to myself and hung up.
They didn’t call back.
The lesson: Customer Experience is crucial to get right and it’s not enough to simply look at your digital User Experiences in isolation of all customer touchpoints with your business. There’s absolutely no chance I’ll ever book with Expedia again!