Magical Brand Experiences: A Tale of Two Twitters, Part 1
I recently had the occasion to attend two conventions in two different cities. One trip brought a memorable but non-magical experience with a brand that I’m sure the company wishes they could erase. The other trip brought a fantastic brand experience that illustrates how magical it is when a company really gets it right.
Brand One: The Hotel
I thought about whether to write about this as I’m not interested in sharing “just another customer service war story.” We’ve all had them. After reflection I decided to describe the experience without naming the brand.
About two months ago I determined that I would need to ship some items ahead to my first convention, mainly as a traveling convenience. I called the hotel in advance to find out the process for shipping items so I could claim them at the front desk when I arrived. I was told to ship the package to the regular address and it would be waiting. I had another package drop-shipped from a vendor using the same process.
The day before my flight I called to verify that the packages had arrived. I was told that I would have to be transferred to a retail shipping company with an office inside the hotel. This was new information, as was the discovery that my packages had arrived but there would be a fee for picking them up. My request to speak to a manager was delayed since it was after 5:00 PM locally. I posted a query on the brand’s Facebook page asking whether the fee ought to be waived since I was not informed of it in advance. I said I would post a follow-up there after getting to talk with someone. There was no response.
The next day I spoke to the retail shipping store manager and the hotel sales manager, neither of whom were willing to budge. I asked whether their failure to disclose a fee was something I should have to pay for. I asked whether they would pay an undisclosed fee for handling my credit card. Finally, the hotel manager told me, after we had both achieved an unpleasant state of mind, that she would cover the fee. This courtesy was appreciated but not extended to anyone else in my group.
With no response on the Facebook page, I posted a follow-up explaining my displeasure, including my experiences in dealing with the retail shop and the manager. No response was forthcoming. I finally looked up the corporate Twitter account and received nearly instant feedback. I was told that my frustration and surprise were valid. I was told that they would look into the situation. I was told that it was not wrong of me to feel disappointed and even angry about being hit with an unexpected fee.
This was a pleasant change of pace.
After I arrived at the hotel and got my packages, I learned that the manager was not pleased that I had named her in my Facebook post. I could not help but shake my head, as there would have been nothing to write about in the first place if the experience had been handled differently.
The correct answer at the outset would have been, “You’re absolutely right, Mr. Turner, we’ll be happy to waive the fee as it was our error not to inform you.”
I was not opposed to the fact that there might be a fee. I was opposed to the fact that I had not been given the opportunity to either accept it or make other arrangements. I might have chosen to take the fee for convenience. I might have shipped it elsewhere. I might have packed another suitcase and made my own travel more burdensome. Whatever the case, I should have had the right to make an informed decision.
Where the Magic was Lost
This experience was memorable, but it wasn’t magical. The corporate brand handled their Twitter well, but the local hotel handled their Facebook and telephone interactions poorly. They only commented on my Facebook post on their page after I had gone to the corporate Twitter account. They grudgingly agreed to do the right thing only after passing me back and forth and passing the buck along with me. The retail store and the hotel both used each other as a shield for not taking ownership of resolving the problem. When faced with a customer willing to implement the same business practice they were using, the hotel resented it and found it disrespectful.
To put a bow on this, I did take a few minutes to buy the hotel manager a small gift and write a thank-you card while I was at the convention. Even though it took a lot of prodding, she ultimately did go above and beyond to solve my problem and rectify the situation, and I thought it appropriate to be gracious. That is also part of why I am not naming the hotel here.
That said, I have no interest in being part of anything at that hotel again in the future, nor am I particularly motivated to give that brand another try when booking another convention site. Rather than take an opportunity to create a magical experience, I was made to feel like their failure to inform me when I asked for details was somehow my own fault. Their processes were used like shields and weapons to protect anyone from taking the initiative to try to solve the problem. I’ve written before that the experience with a brand stops being magical when the processes stop being invisible. It’s even less so when the processes are openly used against you.
Next time – Magical Brand Experiences: A Tale of Two Twitters, Part 2