10 Lessons from an uncomfortable booking

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This real experience involved me (the customer), booking.com and Comfort Inn Downtown Salt Lake City. After reading this blog post you will understand why, after 72 bookings with booking.com and 3 stays at Comfort Inn, I will never use their services again.

  • I booked 3 rooms for 5 nights, via booking.com, at the Comfort Inn Downtown in Salt Lake City, 2 months ago
  • Today (after a 16-hour journey from London) at the hotel check-in desk, I was informed that the hotel was over-booked, they could do nothing about it, and I should call booking.com

Lesson #1 – When you (or your partners) fail the customer, don’t tell him you can’t do anything about it, putting the burden on him to sort himself out. Contact your partner and try to resolve the situation.

Lesson #2 – If the communication or process between you and your partner has failed, don’t throw your partner under the bus, as it will only make you look even worse (the words used by the hotel receptionist were “If I were you I would never use booking.com again… they always mess up”).

Lesson #3 – If the procedures and policies make it impossible for you to help the customer, at least empathise, apologise, make an effort to be helpful, and be supportive (even if just morally).

  • After a winding IVR and 10 minutes waiting, booking.com put me on hold for another 10 minutes, only to tell me “we will get back to you in 30 minutes with a solution”

Lesson #4 – When you pick up a call from a customer that has been on hold for 10 mins, don’t put him on hold again for endless minutes. If you need time to find a solution, at least check-in every couple of minutes to apologise, update, and ask him to bear with you.

  • The “solution” arrived by email, and suggested I went to booking.com, looked up an extremely scrappy side-of-the-road motel, and booked it myself.

Lesson #5 – If you are going to offer a solution to your customer, make sure it is at least as good as the original one. And if not possible or available, provide an explanation (in this case, everything else was fully-booked) and show some goodwill.

Lesson #6 – If the solution you are providing the customer is one that he could find himself, you should first confirm if he has already done it (I had already gone to booking.com myself searching for alternatives).

  • After a winding IVR and 10 mins waiting, booking.com put me on hold for another 30 mins (yes, 30 mins!), only to tell me “we found an airbnb, will send you a link via email, you can book it yourself, and then claim the difference”

Lesson #7 – If you are providing a solution via email, get in touch with customer straight after, to ask if he is happy with what you proposed, provide other alternatives if not, and confirm he is all sorted or in need of further help.  

Lesson #8 – Review Lesson #5 (the original booking was for 3 hotel rooms, and the airbnb had 3 rooms but only 1 bathroom) and Lesson #6 (I had already gone to airbnb myself searching for alternatives).

Lesson #9 – Try not to mess up with a CX-zealot, otherwise you will end up like Deirdre (the unlucky agent who picked up my call) and put up with a frustrated Portuguese guy giving you a 15-min long speech on the Customer Experience topic, and how you should treat customers.

Lesson #10 – If the resolution you are suggesting is going to ask even more effort (and money!) from the customer, the least you can do is trigger the refund claim process yourself, escalate for it to be processed ASAP, and give the customer a guarantee that it will be approved, rather than using works like “maybe“, “probably“, “likely” or “few weeks“.

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