On Customer Service

My sister got married on Saturday in Pittsburgh, PA. A lovely time was had by all, and she’s happily on her honeymoon.

After the reception, however, she ran into a bit of a snag. When she and her shiny new husband came back to the hotel after the reception, they discovered that neither of them had a key card for the room they had both checked into two days before. So they went to the front desk and asked for the key card. The front desk refused.

Refused. My sister was in her elaborate bridal gown with her veil in hand, and shiny new husband was still in his tuxedo. It was approximately midnight at the end of a very, very long day. They refused to take shiny new husband’s ID, insisting on having my sister’s, since the room was originally in her name (in the room block that had both names, but whatever). Of course, her ID was LOCKED IN THE ROOM–the same room for which they were trying to get the key. After all, there aren’t many pockets in wedding gowns. Finally, after approximately 30 minutes, they got the key card.

In my opinion, this was a complete failure of customer service. I attribute it to two things: blind rule-following and lack of thought. I’ve seen user-facing geek positions have the same two problems.

I find that it usually happens when geeks are bored or burned out. They find it easier to simply auto-pilot according to a strict interpretation of the question asked or the rules of the company, and fall back on that instead of moving into problem-solving mode. Unfortunately for them, most companies don’t tolerate the lack of problem-solving mode for long.

Lack of thought certainly compounded my sister’s case. After all, is a couple clearly dressed in wedding finery and registered in a known wedding block in that hotel going to try to break into a room? At midnight? I don’t know many thieves, but that would have to rank amongst the most brilliant schemes I’ve ever heard of. User support geeks will sometimes fail to think as well. Specifically, they fail to think about what the user is actually TRYING to do, rather than what the user is actually asking.

Now that I look at it, good customer service really comes down to engaging your brain, and solving the problem. Geeks (and hotel employees) also need to have the power to implement the solution, but I think that’s a post for another day.