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Customer Service Challenge and Success - Don't Always Blame the Technology!

Many readers, friends and clients know that we are tech savvy consumers who analyze and test our customer service and technology practices and theories when spending our hard earned money, whether it is on personal or corporate expenditures.

We also generally don’t provide names of companies and details of our personal consumer attempts to spend money. However, during the past month, we had the most diametrically opposed examples of technology, people and process and how it can affect customer service, reputation and brand from two of Canada’s most respected companies in their respective spaces, that I felt I had to write this article.

Customer Service Disconnect - Auberge du Pommier

A few weeks ago we tried to go to Auberge du Pommier to celebrate a major milestone birthday with a romantic evening out. We chose this restaurant as it was one of the first places we dated as a couple many years ago. We have reminisced about the food, service, and locale over the years, and we thought it would be the perfect way to celebrate my birthday and many years being together.

The Good Part

The web site was excellent in that it had the menu, wine list and even floor plan with table selections that enabled us to select a table and do an online reservation about 10 days before our actual date. We thought we had it "made in the shade," and both looked forward to a memorable evening, like our first serious date that we had there many years ago. That was the good part.

Now for the Bad Part

Unfortunately we had to cancel the reservation the morning of our dinner due to issues at Fox Hollow that did not allow us to leave. I went online early Saturday morning to try to cancel our reservation to no success. Their web forms did not work and came back with a note telling me to contact the restaurant directly. The message did not provide you with the number; you had to go to another part of the web site. (Why couldn't they make this easy?)

Once I got the number, wrote it down, and called, I had to navigate through a complex IVR and was finally able to get to the “front desk.” The message said that you could not contact anyone before 2 pm to cancel a reservation, and instructed you to call back later.

I waited until after 2 pm, and ended up calling in-between doing usual Saturday errands. I sat by the side of the road for over 45 minutes going around in circles (no voice mail option was available). After over 15 attempts, a live person finally picked up my call.

I explained my situation about having to cancel our early dinner reservation. The young woman who answered was one of the rudest customer-facing staff I have ever dealt with in my life. She said that we should log in and cancel our own reservation, and then we could reschedule it for later in the evening or sometime in the future.

When I asked about availability the rest of the weekend, she informed me that I should have known and understood that they would not be open the Sunday or Monday of the long May weekend (the web site did not show this for Sunday, only Monday). She finally begrudgingly agreed to cancel our reservation and told us to rebook online in the future!

We have done our best to not let this attempt to dine at Auberge du Pommier ruin a good memory from our first date there. I do hope that they work on fixing their technology and peoples’ attitudes so that others don't go through the same frustration that we faced.

Customer Service Alignment Done Well - Honda Canada

Around the same time, our local Honda sales guy, George Olenick at Classic Honda, decided to do a reach out two years into the lease of our company CRV. He sent an email letting me know that Honda was offering lease discounts and asked whether I was interested in returning our vehicle early.

Keeping in Touch With Customers – Communicating via their preference, not yours

I honestly had not been thinking about this at all, but decided to reply to his email and ask him what a new car package would look like. Same car, same options, etc., etc.

About a day and a half later, George got back to me with a quote. It was complete, accurate and showed me all the details of what an analytical person like me would expect.

We decided to also check out four-wheel drive vehicles, since we are looking to move closer to Lake Huron in the snow belt area. We went back and forth looking at used Honda Ridgelines, with George even proposing bringing over a vehicle from another dealer, if required.

In one of his emails, he also suggested that since we were going to be moving to be closer to my Dad, that perhaps a second vehicle would be required (in addition to our summer-only Miata). We again went back and forth; the net is that we ended up leasing two new vehicles – a CRV for me, and a Civic for Stephen.

Working through the paperwork was all done electronically, and we arranged for a pickup near the end of April, all with no problems or hiccups.

Now the Fun Begins…Getting the Cars Connected to our Windows Smart Phones

Once we got home, we connected the Civic easily to our Windows smart phones with no problems. Next we tried to connect the new Honda CRV applications to our windows phones. We were really excited to see how the HondaLink capabilities would work.

HondaLink provides the ability to use your apps in your phone with the separate high quality monitor. This enables you to view movies, map apps, voice calling and many other features.

While Stephen was reading the manual (which I never do), I decided to go online to see what I could learn. I registered both vehicles on the myHonda web site, and logged an email trouble call to tech support (Thursday night around 9 p.m.). Their message said they would respond within 24 hours (usual practice).

The next morning I was pleasantly surprised to get a call from the Honda Canada IT support desk. Unfortunately I missed the call, but the technician left clear instructions for me to call him back, my ticket number, his direct phone number, and even email! Wow!

Stephen was able to figure out how to upgrade the HondaLink software and got the phone working. I emailed the technician to thank him for his reach out and let him know that we had resolved our issue. He replied back, acknowledged my message, and provided a direct number for future customer support in the event we needed it.

Taking Customer Service to the Next Level

Later in the afternoon, I received a call from a customer relations person from the myHonda web site, reaching out to see how I was doing with my vehicle. What blew us away was that she was aware of our service call, and that it had been resolved, but she just wanted to follow up as a new Honda customer to make sure that everything was to our satisfaction.

During our exchange, we also discussed that I was a former owner of a Honda motorcycle (Pacific coast 800CC, a unique bike in my earlier days). We got to talking about our upcoming move and how I had been researching electric bicycles for scooting around town in the future.

She mentioned their new large scooters and suggested that we check them out as an alternative to an electric bicycle. She checked dealer locations and even advised about the nearby Honda dealer that had a red one in stock, and offered to coordinate a test drive if I was interested. Holy heck! Talk about a great customer service attitude!

What does this all mean to a company brand and customer service reputation?

We see these two examples of how and why technology, customer service strategies, staff skills and attitudes all have to be aligned in order to ensure a great customer experiences, no matter what your product or service.

It is critically important to ensure alignment of all elements in order to positively support your brand, reputation and future customer intentions.

As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback on this article.

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