I’ve told this story on my blog before, so bear with me if you’ve already heard it. I’m standing at the front desk of a nice hotel in Baltimore. The front desk clerk is having a problem with my reservation. I wondered if it was because I had literally just booked the reservation 45 minutes prior, just as I got into my rental car at the airport. I told the hotel employee that perhaps my very recent booking was the problem.
He called hotels.com, the company I used for booking, not once, but two times, about my reservation. When he didn’t get things sorted out after 2 lengthy calls to hotels.com, he told me, “I’m just going to cancel your hotels.com reservation and rebook you in our system.”
I was eager to get into my room and rest up for a week of full-day training sessions. His suggestion sounded good to me. That is, until, a couple of months later when checking my hotels.com account, I get a message stating that my 6-night hotel stay in Baltimore had been removed from my Rewards Account and that I would not get credit for that stay.
The primary reason I use hotels.com is for the rewards. I travel a lot. It takes 10 hotel stays to earn a free hotel night. In June I earned two free hotel nights and used both of those nights for get-aways with my husband. I travel a lot.
Now, the hotels.com call center is telling me that because they couldn’t help my hotel in Baltimore sort out a problem, they are removing my earned rewards? Pretty quickly in the interaction, I asked to speak to a manager. Here’s why I felt I needed to do this.
1. The number one thing customers want is help. When you don’t/can’t help, customers instinctively want to climb the ladder.
Trying to get my deserved hotel rewards, I called hotels.com. I spoke with an employee who put me on hold 3 times and ultimately told me there was nothing he could do. Literally, he said, “Ma’am, there’s nothing I can do.” This declaration certainly didn’t help me out. So, I said, “May I please speak with your manager?”
2. Customers also want acknowledgement. Another way to think of this is empathy. Without acknowledgment/empathy, it sounds like you don’t care. And if you don’t care, they might as well speak to someone else.
I noticed that the employee didn’t offer me any apology or empathy for my situation. This would have been so easy. How about, “Myra (not “ma’am”) I realize this is frustrating for you. I love that you are a loyal customer and a member of our Rewards Program. I will do all that I can to get to the bottom of this for you.” Acknowledgement makes your customer feel heard and…acknowledged. When your customers feel heard and acknowledged, they are far less likely to escalate. Keep that in mind.
3. Just like you would in the same situation, your customers want a sense of urgency.
It turns out the employee was only too happy to transfer me to a manager. I barely got the word “manager” out before he placed me on hold. I got the manager and she basically said the same thing as her employee. But she had me email her everything I’d just explained over the phone to both her and her employee. I hung up and typed a quick, but thorough email. There was no reply to my email. Thirty days later I emailed again. Nothing. I ended up escalating to the Better Business Bureau. That’s when hotels.com finally responded. No sense of urgency there.
This entire month-plus long interaction could have been avoided by help, acknowledgment and at least the perception of urgency. But without these crucial responses to my issue, my only real choice was to escalate. I know you don’t want your customers to escalate. Join me for my “How to De-escalate” webinar on February 16th and I will show your people exactly how to make a sincere effort to help, give genuine statements of acknowledgement and demonstrate a sense of urgency. This response strategy alone will reduce your escalating. But I have 7 more great response templates that will slash your customer escalations.
How to De-escalate Angry or Agitated Customers
De-escalation Training to Help Your Employees Get Angry Customers to Back Down, Pre-empt Escalations to Supervisors and, In General, Handle Difficult Customers with More Ease.
Online, On-demand video training with Myra Golden – now available for immediate viewing