Two More Customer Service Lessons From A Customer Experience Fail

Enhancing Customer Experiences and Improving Customer Satisfaction

Over the past two weeks we have been sharing some important customer service lessons from our personal customer experience fail with Flagship Cruises & Events while on a family holiday in San Diego last month.

Here are our final two lessons in improving the customer experience and increase the satisfaction of your customers from this incident. You may need to read these three blog posts to get a full background on these lessons:

San Diego Cruise Line Fails to Understand Customer Needs

Customer Service Lessons From A Customer Experience Fail

More Customer Service Lessons From A Customer Experience Fail

 

Lesson #5: Learn From Industry Best Practitioners

As I have written before, every customer interaction is an opportunity to build long-term loyaltyThe best organizations in every industry know and understand this.

For instance, Disneyland has Disney characters roaming their theme parks offering to take photos of customers with the customer’s own cameras. There are even photo stations around each park where Disney characters are scheduled to appear.

Yes, Disneyland has employees also taking photos for families in the hopes of selling these later. But they are also willing to assist in having photos taken with their guests’ own phones and cameras.

The last thing a Disneyland theme park employee would ever do is attempt to physically block a customer from taking a photo with their own phone or camera (as the Flagship Cruise’s staff member did to us).

The same is true at the famed San Diego Zoo and their sister location Safari Park. At both venues employees were gracious and more than willing to take photos of us using our own equipment.

The key lesson here is that customer expectations are set not only by the communications and policies of your organization, but also by the actions and policies of other suppliers in your industry (and other industries as well quite frankly).

Lesson #6: Be Proactive In Handling Customer Complaints

In our Keeping Good Customers Blog last year we explained why Customer Complaints Are Good.

Of course, they are only good if you act upon them! Properly. Service recovery starts with how you react to a customer complaint.

In this case, the only reaction to date from Flagship Cruises to my publicly announced complaint on their facebook page was a reply from “trongley@flagshipsd.com” saying:

Thanks for reaching out Steven. We’d like to hear more about what happened.
Could you please reach out to me directly at trongley@flagshipsd.com?”

Apparently this staff member of Flagship Cruises believes that I need to proactively seek him or her out to further explain my dissatisfaction with their service. And here I was thinking that I am the customer!

When I bought our tickets for their whale watching cruise, I supplied both by email address and my mobile phone number. In fact, I get a weekly marketing email from Flagship Cruises attempting to solicit further business from me.

So there is no excuse for their failure to contact me to “hear more about what happened.” Passivity in reacting to a customer complaint, particularly one shared through social media, is unacceptable in today’s world.

It has now been over a month since our unfortunate and unacceptable customer experience with Flagship Cruises, and yet no one has contacted us. Not even after others replied to my post on their Facebook page. And not even after three weeks of using this customer experience fail as a customer service lesson for all.

The customer should not have to write you or call you after having voiced a public complaint. Organizations that excel at customer service know the importance of Making It Easy For Customers To Complain. Handling customer complaints properly impacts all current and future customers ─ and starts with processes, procedures, and systems that make it easy for such complaints to be communicated to your organization.

So, there you have it. Six important customer service lessons from one single customer experience fail. I hope these lessons will help you and your organization enhance the customer experiences you are providing and increase your customer satisfaction levels.

 

More Customer Service Lessons From A Customer Experience Fail

Boosting Customer Satisfaction Levels and Enhancing Customer Experiences

Last week we shared with you two valuable customer service lessons from a dissatisfying customer experience we had with San Diego cruise line Flagship Cruises & Events. These lessons relate to a customer experience fail as outlined in an earlier post on how this organization fails to understand customer needs.

This week we will add two more customer service lessons on how organizations can enhance the customer experiences they deliver and increase their customer satisfaction levels. You may need to read our blog post on March 6 to get a full background on these lessons: Flagship Cruises Customer Experience Fail.

 

Lesson #3: Set Customer Expectations

If you want to enforce a dumb rule like no personal photography allowed, then it is best to post the rule publicly for all to see.

This will help minimize negative interactions between your front-line staff and your customers.

Of course, this will make your organization look absolutely foolish, which is one indicator that you should not have such a customer unfriendly rule in the first place!

 

Lesson #4: Learn to Leverage Social Media

Had our family been allowed to take a nice photo of our daughter with the ship’s life preserver, we would have each shared the photo using the check-in feature on our respective Facebook pages.

Flagship Cruise Customer Experience Fail

Despite the Flagship Cruises & Events no personal photography policy I got this snap off.

Imagine how many positive Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter posts Flagship Cruises is losing daily due to its ban on personal photography at the life preserver post. This positive publicity would far outweigh any minimal loss in picture sales they incur from a change in policy.

Our personal marketing philosophy is simple:

if it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue™

The “no personal photography” policy of Flagship Cruises is definitely a marketing issue, with direct impact on customer satisfaction levels, customer experience delivery, and word-of-mouth publicity. It may or may not be an operational policy, but it is definitely a marketing issue.

As such, these are the lessons for all organizations. Next week we will have two more customer service lessons to share with you from this dissatisfying customer experience at one of San Diego’s better-known cruise lines.

Customer Service Lessons From A Customer Experience Fail

Enhancing Customer Experiences and Customer Satisfaction Levels

In last week’s Monday Morning Marketing Memo we shared the dissatisfying experiences we had recently with Flagship Cruises & Events and how this San Diego cruise line fails to understand customer needs.

This week we will share some of the customer service lessons from this customer experience fail. You may need to read last week’s blog post to get the full background on these lessons: Flagship Cruises Customer Experience Fail.

Lesson #1: Birthdays are important.

Everybody likes to have memorable birthday experiences. This makes birthdays a great opportunity for any organization to provide an exceptional experience that is not only memorable, but will also result in positive word-of-mouth publicity as well. After all, the little things matter in customer service.

For instance, Flagship Cruises could have party balloons at its cruise check-in point and use these in the photos it takes of those celebrating a birthday or anniversary. The chances of increased sales of such photos are extremely high.

Additionally, instead of having an attitude that helping to celebrate one’s birthday on a public cruise is “too difficult,” this company could proactively create memorable experiences such as letting the birthday celebrant take photos in the wheelhouse with the captain, or even holding the ship’s wheel. After all, how difficult is that to implement during the course of a four-hour cruise?

The bottom line is if you help your customers create happy and memorable birthday experiences they will be guaranteed to share their experiences with family members and friends.

Lesson #2: Policies are fine. Exceptions are critical.

There may be numerous valid reasons for the “no taking of personal photos” rule enforced by Flagship Cruises. These could include speed of moving customers to the waiting area, hopes of increased photos sales by prohibiting personal photos, reduced agitation by customers in line having to wait a few extra minutes to board, etc.

For each supposedly valid reason I could counter with equally valid reasons and process to avoid anticipated fallout. Of course, I approach such situations from my marketing philosophy of if it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue.™

Rigidly enforced rules, with no empowerment to frontline staff to make exceptions, is bad policy. We are well past the days when being customer-oriented meant operating in order to meet the needs of the typical customer. Every customer has individual wants, needs, desires, likes, and dislikes. Businesses today cannot afford to build operations and policies attuned to meet only the needs of the average customer. To be fully successful, and to avoid negative and dissatisfying customer experiences, businesses need to be flexible in how policies, procedures, and processes are implemented.

So let’s turn this rule on its head. Since Flagship Cruises appears to like rigidly enforced rules, here’s a new rule they can implement:

“Customers celebrating birthdays and couples celebrating anniversaries
today will be allowed to take their own celebratory pictures
at our famed life preserver post.
Thank you for helping us make their special day even more memorable.”

If they posted a plaque with this “rule” at the entryway, other customers would not feel inconvenienced by the handful of people taking their own photos. In fact, some in line will likely shout out birthday and anniversary greetings, or even start a chorus of the Happy Birthday song.

These are just a couple of lessons, and ideas, on how to move from a customer experience failure to a memorable customer service experience.

Next week we will share two more valuable lessons that will help you enhance your customer experiences and customer satisfaction levels.

 

 

San Diego Cruise Line Fails To Understand Customer Needs

Flagship Cruises Customer Experience Fail

I have written many times about the stupid rules and regulations organizations have that prevent superior customer service. I have also written frequently about the need for commercial operations to truly understand customer needs and for these needs to be fully understood by all staff.

Now I have a new customer experience fail to cite in future writing and speeches, courtesy of Flagship Cruises & Events in San Diego.

Last month we took our daughter to San Diego to celebrate her 9th birthday. A highlight of the 5-day trip was supposed to be a whale watching excursion. Good idea. Bad choice of excursion providers.

After booking the cruise I called the Flagship Cruises customer service line a few days before our trip to enquire if there was any opportunity to do something special for my daughter since we would be going on the cruise on the actual day of her birthday. I was politely told that doing anything extraordinary was too difficult on a public cruise. Oh well, nice try but “too difficult.”

We arrived early on the day of the cruise and spotted a beautiful life preserver ring with the Flagship logo and date of the cruise on it. What a wonderful photo opportunity we thought. But the two Flagship Cruise employees would not allow us beyond their entry rope to take a photo of our daughter with the life preserver.

Instead, as we entered the boarding area a half hour later we were asked to pose next to the life preserver so that they could take a photo of us with their camera! We told our daughter to do so as it was her special day. But when mom and dad tried to take our own photos we were shouted at loudly that such actions were prohibited. And one staff member (Leslie) actually knocked my arm tried to physically block me from taking a photo.

Upon querying her actions we were told the two staff members (Julia was the other young adult staff member) were merely following their boss’s orders. Even after explaining the significance of the date to our daughter, they still refused to make an exception to the rules.

All of which, unfortunately, caused our 9-year old daughter to burst into tears on her birthday!

So, for causing a 9-year old to cry on the morning of her birthday, Leslie and Julia of Flagship Cruises are now enshrined in my Customer Experience Hall of Shame.

Flagship Cruises claims to be a family owned and operated company. But it appears they don’t have a clue about what is important to families and customers celebrating an important life milestone.

Even worse, they promise on their website to “treat you and everyone aboard like family.” They certainly don’t live up to this claim with rigidly enforced rules on photo taking. What kind of a family prevents other family members from taking photos?

After the cruise, I posted a short complaint about our treatment on the Flagship Cruise Facebook page. Here’s the reply I got: “Thanks for reaching out Steven. We’d like to hear more about what happened. Could you please reach out to me directly at trongley@flagshipsd.com?”

I guess “trongley@flagshipsd.com” thinks that I need to proactively seek him or her out to further explain my dissatisfaction with their service. And here I was thinking that I am the customer! Well, this Monday Morning Marketing Memo is my further explanation.

At the end of the cruise, the photograph of my daughter taken by the Flagship Cruise staff member was available for purchase at $10. That is not a significant price, especially since it was a lovely photo. But I could not bring myself to buy it for the photo would only serve as a lasting memory of an unfortunate and dissatisfying customer experience.

Interestingly, I have noticed that when my daughter or I talk to others about our San Diego trip we mention the famed San Diego Zoo, the Birch Aquarium, Sonny Jim’s Cave, and the Safari Park. Neither of us speaks of the whale watching excursion and neither of us is recommending this cruise to others.

It just goes to show how a bad customer experience results in the lost opportunity for positive word-of-mouth advertising and social media publicity.

Ironically, the company also states on its website that they are “the best in the business providing San Diego visitors and tourists with experiences they will remember for a lifetime.” Well, I’ll certainly remember my experience with Flagship Cruises for a lifetime, but perhaps not in the way they hope.

There are many customer service lessons to be learned from this experience with Flagship Cruises, which I will discuss in next week’s Monday Morning Marketing Memo.