I have just recently returned from a trip to New Orleans at Microsoft TechEd. It was a great trip and a lot of information to be learned (and food to eat, and places to see)! There was a lot of walking to do while there and a lot of swag to gather as well. I’m really glad I took along a second bag for the return trip. It came in quite handy.
While staying in New Orleans, my hotel was booked through the TechEd registration process at the Hampton Inn Downtown (Carondelet Street). This was a nice hotel. They were doing some renovations in the hotel, but that work didn’t seem to affect where I was staying.
As you may know, Hampton Inn is known for providing breakfast for guests. While the breakfast is not five-star, it is a decent breakfast, and usually good enough to keep things going until lunch. However, on Tuesday morning, I arrived at the breakfast room to find scrambled eggs. On first look, they seemed a little questionable, but I tried them anyway. The best way I can describe them is “little savory yellow marshmallows.” This was not a great start. I left to head to the conference center.
While on the way, I decided to tweet my thoughts about breakfast:
“Breakfast at Hampton Inn was a bit lackluster. Scrambled eggs looked and tasted like little savory yellow marshmallows. On to backup plan!”
It was just an off-hand comment. About 10 minutes later, I received notification that Hampton Inn Corporate (@Hampton) started following me and then sent me a tweet asking if they could help. For those not familiar with Twitter, you have to follow someone in order for them to send a direct (private) message. I sent a direct message with my confirmation number and location. A couple of hours later, I received a phone call from the manager of the hotel where I was staying. He asked that I stop by to see him when I returned to the hotel later in the day.
I finally arrived back at the hotel and asked to see the manager. He apologized for the quality of the breakfast and then removed one night’s charge from my bill. I was not looking for this type of reaction, but he said that Hampton Inn takes comments such as these very seriously. Needless to say, I was quite pleased with their ability to find, listen, and respond to my comment in such a positive way. It is good to see that customer service is very much alive and well.
Unfortunately, there are also cases where customer service is not so great. This time it is with the behemoth Time Warner Cable. I had been a customer of TWC for many years, until last year when my local phone company started laying in fiber to the home. I was quite excited about that since I am a geek and enjoy having my Internet service.
So back in August/September 2012, I decided to make the move to all fiber connection and leave TWC. I went to the local office to pay my “final” bill and turn in all the equipment. What I didn’t know is that it was not actually my “final” bill. After asking at the desk if that completed my account, I was told it did. Having not received any further communication from TWC that there was any outstanding balance on my account, life was good…until…two weeks ago.
I received a letter from an obscure (to me) collections agency requiring payment of $31.79 on behalf of TWC. I called TWC to inquire about this charge and why I am hearing about it 10 months later from a collection agency. I was, of course, told that they sent multiple statements, however, I find it hard to believe that I can get their promotional mailings wanting me to “return to TWC as a valued customer,” but yet the bills don’t seem to make it. I guess when the NSA was sniffing for data, they forgot to put these bills back in the stream to get to me.
I have since paid the bill directly with TWC to resolve the account. However, they still cannot tell me why, as they say, “multiple statements were sent,” but I did not receive them. When I was a customer, if my bill was even a day late, they had no trouble reaching out to call and let me know that it was overdue or simply turning off my cable box remotely. While they can’t turn off the box since I no longer have it, they certainly seem to have working phone numbers since I was able to call them to inquire about this elusive bill.
Now, I know that this is not an uncommon story about large corporate structure and their inability to take small steps to help out when necessary. However, I do believe that this could have been handled much better, especially since I had been such a long-time customer and they say they wish to have a “valued” customer return. My only thoughts are that when TWC says “Thank you for choosing Time Warner Cable” on the phone, those are just words that the associates are trained to say. They don’t have any appreciation for past, present or future customers. So keep that in mind if you are dealing with them.
So thanks for listening to my rant. As you can see there are two very different corporate cultures on what customer service should be and which company actually values the business of its customers.