Here’s a true story.
I booked a hotel room for a night. All they had available was a single room, non refundable.
The following day, things change and I’m no longer able to make my that trip. So I phone the hotel, 2 weeks before the night I’d booked, and ask if there’s any way at all they could change the booking and either refund me or use the money they’ve already taken as credit for another stay on another date.
So the night comes and of course I don’t stay in the hotel and the next morning comes the email ‘We hope you enjoyed your stay, please take a few moments to tell us about it.’
So I do, I slate them, giving them the lowest possible score on every criteria – after all, there’s very little to enjoy about a hotel you’ve paid for but haven’t stayed in.
I get to the end of the review, having given them the lowest possible score and the system says, ‘Thanks so much, we really appreciate your feedback. Now, would you like to make that public and post a review on Google?’, I say ‘Yes’ and the Google review loads up where, guess what, I now slate them in public.
Businesses like this deserve all they get as far as I’m concerned. They’ve no interest in customer service, they are merely executing a system and a process. They couldn’t care less about my experience. If they did, they would know I hadn’t checked in let alone stayed the night there. They’d have marked me down as a potential issue when I phoned, asked to cancel and make it clear there was no way I would be able to stay. They’d have over-ridden the automatic feedback system based on the data available. And when I scored them so poorly on the initial feedback form they’d have intervened and tried to put things right before encouraging me to make my review public.
Feedback and reviews are important to every business and of course we should have processes and systems to capture them. There’s a place for automation in this but it cannot be at the expense of common sense and good management. There has to be human checks. These systems are a tool, a support, they are not the be all and end all and if they represent the full extent of your customer service then you may as well shut up shop.
This way of operating is common across many hotels, B+Bs, cafes and restaurants. Here’s a test to see if you’re doing it right: If I’m a customer, I make my purchase and subsequently complain to reception that something wasn’t quite right, does that exchange have any influence over the automated ‘tell us about your stay/purchase’ email? If it does – you’re doing it right. If it doesn’t – if that email goes out regardless of my interaction with your front-line staff – then there’s a big issue that needs fixing.