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September 21. 2013 8:39PM

Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: Some companies just don't get it


 

A FEW months ago, I wrote a column about my horrific experience booking my travel through Expedia.com. The experience was something everyone fears. My credit card was overcharged thousands of dollars, and it took me weeks and countless hours battling on the phone to get it resolved.

After talking to numerous Expedia employees, the situation was finally resolved, but it was by far the most frustrating and painful experience I have ever been through when dealing with a company I did business with. It was marred with finger pointing, incompetence and being transferred all around the company.

As a result of the mistakes Expedia.com made and the hours of my life that were wasted trying to get the thousands of dollars back they mistakenly took, they offered to give me a $200 travel voucher. Although I vowed never to use Expedia.com again, the $200 voucher made it tempting.

Last week, I caved and booked a flight to visit my brother in Florida. I applied the $200 voucher online and got my plane ticket for a little over $100. Not a bad deal. According to Expedia, the airline would charge my card for the full cost of the flight and in turn, Expedia would immediately apply the $200 credit.

Based on my experiences, you won't be surprised to learn that the $200 credit was never applied to my card. It's now been about a week and a half since I bought my ticket, and I still have yet to receive the credit they promised. Even though I have a receipt showing the charge should have been around $100, my card still sits with a $317 charge.

I've called three separate times and have spoken to three different Expedia representatives. They all had a different story, and they all assured me that my credit card would be credited within the next few days.

What's even more interesting is how United Airlines handled a mistake I experienced on my flight home. When I selected my seat online, I spent an extra $15 to get a seat with more leg room. When I got on the flight, they decided to change my seat because I showed up 15 minutes before our scheduled departure. It was likely the check-in employee being annoyed with me, but regardless, I paid extra money for a seat I didn't sit in.

Before I even had a chance to call and request a credit for the money I paid, United had already sent the credit through. They recognized the mistake and immediately fixed it. I was impressed. So if United can do something so simple, why can't Expedia?

Situations like this boggle my mind. All too often, companies fail to provide the service that customers expect. They turn simple mistakes into disastrous experiences for their customers. It not only causes dismay with the person who is going through the process, that person will certainly share their story with others. It doesn't matter if it's positive or negative; word of mouth is an extremely effective form of gaining or losing customers.

For some reason, many companies still struggle with the most basic aspects of customer experience. The outcome can be catastrophic for a company and seriously impact future sales. While it's simple and easy to fix, handling mistakes and issues with your customers requires a well thought out approach to ensure everyone that interacts with your company has a positive experience and that problems are fixed immediately.

My advice is pretty straightforward. Take it seriously and strive for perfection in this area.

Christopher Thompson (cthompson@catch22solutions.com) writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.



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