Monday, September 2, 2013

Customer Experience - It's not 1950 Anymore

My work and focus is shifting recently. Although it's always centered around the needs of the "user," I've started thinking more about the customer in general. What is their total experience over the lifetime of a product, digital experience, or service?

This has, in turn, made me an even more discriminating and impatient consumer.

Case in point. I heard about an amazing place in southwest Washington where you can rent an old trailer from the 50s and stay there for the night, weekend or week - similar to a B&B, only cooler! Sign me up! But wait, it's not that easy.

The website has great images and a cute look and feel to it. Being very used to booking reservations for everything from Airbnb to a Hilton Hotel online, it seemed only natural that I could do that here. After searching the entire site, I gave up and called. Ok, so they are old school. Old trailers, no online reservations.

One of the nice things about a phone conversation vs. online reservations, is that you find out things you never thought to ask. I found out the trailer I wanted sleeps 6 (unnecessary for us), but they all have kitchens and bathrooms. I put a reservation on a trailer and felt good about it. I did put it on hold it followed up by a few rounds of phone calls (one surreptitious one since I was standing with the person I was trying to surprise with the gift of a weekend) before finally giving them my credit card. At the time of that conversation, I also decided to change to a slightly less expensive, smaller trailer that fit our needs.

After thinking about it for a few days, I realized that I never asked if the new trailer I reserved was available any time other than early October, which seemed far away. I called back (catching someone directly this time), who told me my reservation was still for the larger trailer. After much back and forth we found a date open with a smaller trailer (2 MORE weeks out than I wanted it).

Attempting to be a savvy customer, I asked for a reservation number. "We don't do that." I was told. Really?? Ok, then can you email me a receipt? "We don't do that either." Incredulous I ask how they can run a business like that in this day and age. The woman assures me that my "card" -whatever that is, is now on the date for that trailer. At this time, I picture a huge wall with plastic laminate pockets for every day of the month and every trailer they have. Hopefully, they have a big office.

It's true that everyone adopts and adapts at their own pace, but at some point and time, businesses need to grow and change and keep up with the times. Even without an online reservation system, there should be a simple, easy way to at least guarantee a reservation with a confirmation code. It's just good business. It's not 1950 in the rest of the world.

Lucky for them, they have a bit of a lock on the market as they are the only place I know of like this, so cancelling the reservation was not really an option. Now, I sit back and wait, though you can be sure I'll be calling them every few weeks to be sure we have the Spartan Mansion waiting for us on October 18!