Nowadays, many companies are putting priority on getting things right in the first time and at the first place. They hire the best possible people, put the best system in place, aiming to get the most beautiful satisfaction scores in their management report. This is particularly true for the servicing industries. However, in real life, things could go wrong and customers still complain. And this part of experience – the complaint experience actually creates much stronger impact on your brand than a normal service experience. Customers’ emotional attachment is much much stronger and this eventually constitutes to their effective memories in an exceptionally powerful way. While companies are paying effort to derive an ideal Emotion Curve for a normal service experience, it is equally important (or even more justified) to design the Branded Complaint Experience, since it takes X times of effort and money to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one, not to mention about the (positive or negative) word-of-mouth effect.
If you have been following my articles or blogs, you may be aware that we hold CEM certificate training with our international partners in Singapore on a regular basis. In the past 18 months, we had four programs in Singapore and three out of the four were held in Sheraton Towers. Loyal customers, aren’t we? The location is great, catering is fine, price is reasonable. I can’t tell what a Sheraton experience is until I get this one.
This time, we went again. Meeting arrangement was fixed at ease but the first disappointment came on the room rate they quoted to us. The rate was 135% higher than the rate we got last time. We asked for the reason and were told there was a nation-wide convention during that period of sale so that’s the best they could offer. Aha… this should be one of the best practices for the hotel industry to send their business to someone else. We ended up booking through a travel site which offered 50% less of the hotel quoted rate. We got the booking confirmation and the hotel voucher, and we were mostly, satisfied.
Consistent Experience: “This Is Our Hotel Policy!”
But satisfaction ran too fast. We got problems right at the check-in–the front desk lady couldn’t find our booking. We presented them a valid hotel voucher, told them we were going to hold an event there in the next two days, have been a repeated event organizer to them for the third time… but none of these worked. The official answer was “We could still check you in, but as far as we didn’t have the booking on file, we have to charge you SGD440+++ per room night (regardless of what you have already paid to the agent)…, that’s the hotel policy and we are instructed by the management to do so”.
Stunned. We have no choice but call in the Duty Manager. Mr. Duty Manager came with a cool face, insisted to explain the hotel policy instead of solving the problem. He recognized the name of the travel agent on the voucher and admitted to receive booking orders from the agent on an on-going basis. In simple term, they are doing business with this travel agent. HOWEVER, he rejected to solve our case with them. In his words, the agent did not represent Sheraton and it’s none of Sheraton’s responsibility to sort out the case with them.
That is a Sheraton experience. Now, let’s take a look on what Sheraton says in their hotel website: “Located in the heart of the city along Scotts Road, the Sheraton Towers Singapore is famous for our warm and accommodating service. We are happy to help you in any way possible and look forward to making your stay enjoyable and memorable.”
“In Any Way Possible” Became “In No Way Possible”.
I called this an Un-Branded Experience—over-promise, under-deliver. The worst of all, the pain peak experience lies exactly on the company’s claimed brand values—warm and accommodating service, help you in any way possible. The Pleasure-Pain-Gap (PPG) is maximized in a very negative way, to the extreme that the pain peaks fall into the unacceptable level. These painful experience will also be deposited as Effective Memories and will be associated with the brand once recalled. In this case, there’s only one outcome—the customer is being driven away.
Below is the emotion curve of my Un-Branded Complaint Experience in Sheraton. You will not want this to happen in your company, though.
How was my Sheraton experience ended? The case did resolve finally, after my colleague struggled on phone calls and emails with the travel agent and the travel site for another TWO days. After the case was solved, we did receive a phone message from another lady of Sheraton, claiming the case was resolved and we won’t be charged for anything extra, and please don’t be worry about that… By the time we checked out, we have never met with this Duty Manager or anyone from Sheraton management again. No goodbye, no genuine smile. Don’t ever think of an official apology on the whole case.
Now, I can remember what a Sheraton experience is. Goodbye.