Friday, March 14, 2008

email as relationship destroyer

In my lectures/seminars/training/books I emphasise the need to consider carefully any email content [over and above direct email]. Too often I find that simple 'communication' emails can make or break a customer's relationship with the organization. This is such an example.

I recently booked a hotel room in Las Vegas - not on the hotel's site, but through an online agent, Five Star Alliance. When looking for prices on various web sites, this one presented the information as "$350 per night, 2 nights for the price of 3" - in Vegas terms, one night 'comp'.

So when the confirmation email said total bill $1050 [ie 3 x 350] I sent a polite email querying the total. The first email informed me that the discount was included in the $350 nightly rate. I replied pointing out that I could have booked [on their site] one night for $325 - so how come I was - effectively - getting no discount for three?

I then received this reply:
"Dear Mr. Charlesworth,

We receive all our rates directly from the hotel. Four Seasons has loaded their discounted rate offer as three for two. If you can find a better rate through a different source, we recommend that you reserve that rate. We unfortunately cannot alter rates that the hotels send out to booking agencies".

I'll not include the 'signed' name, but Ms 'Client Service Manager' - this is not the way to effectively service clients.

To be honest, my wife had set her heart on the hotel in question - the Four Seasons - and I couldn't be bothered to start all over again looking for prices.

But guess which booking agent I will NEVER use again?

Oh, and by the way, between my two emails, the 3 for 2 offer disappeared from the site. Coincidence, or someone realising there had been a cock-up when they read my email?

FOOTNOTE : the same day as I posted this comment I completed a '
'Compliments, Comments and Concerns' form on the Four Seasons web site that basically out-lined my comments above and pointed out that by their actions, Five Star Alliance was damaging the Four Seasons brand. I got a prompt response from the organization's President, Jim FitzGibbon and a follow up email from Robbie Schneider, the reservations manager at the hotel in Vegas - both of which were written in a tone that was commendably customer-friendly.

Oh, and I loved the footer on Robbie's email : "Serenity in Las Vegas does exist, you just have to know where to find it ... Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas"

FOOTNOTE II : If you are going to Vegas you should stay at the Four Seasons. The service is simply excellent, with staff from bell-hop to receptionist to pool staff all being an example of how it should be done.

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