Sunday, November 26, 2006

Satisfy me

Handling a Disgruntled [Customer] Me

2 WEEKS AGO – After booking my Easyjet flight to London and the Gatwick Express (tip: book this from the Easyjet website and you get additional discount, aside from the discount you get for booking online), I decided, upon Queen Victoria’s insistence, that I book my train to Sheffield ASAP. She said that it’s best to book advance so I get a seat reservation. The football match between Manchester United and Sheffield United might cause a rise in passenger booking, so I should not be risking buying last minute tickets, she added.

OK fine my dear Queen Victoria, I am your obedient and loyal subject, thus I will obey your order. I am going to book online. Now.

So as told, I went to Midland Mainline’s website. Typing into the keys of my laptop, I thought - ah great, online booking is the greatest internet invention after blogs.

Quickly, I browsed through the timetables and right away experienced a severe headache. Ugh, whoever designed this? I proceeded to enter the details of my trip on the “book tickets” section. It was amazing how the train schedules in the book tickets section did not match the timetables that I earlier checked. No wonder I was confused.

Anyway, the train schedules from London St. Pancras to Sheffield showed up in the window screen. On the top right of the page, it says Step 1 of 7 --- Huh?

Now tell me genius. What is wrong with this picture?

Simple, the STEP 1 to 7 is the big mistake. To buy or book something online in 7 steps is just damn too long! Online marketers, do you not understand that customers nowadays do not anymore exhibit the virtue of patience? We now live in an instant world. Instant fotos, instant publishing, instant coffee, and instant noodles. In the western world we call it the microwave mentality. We all want it now.

And there is more. The doomed Midland Mainline website asks for a postcode. Not just any postcode. It must be a UK postcode otherwise you cannot continue with the booking. I was like - eh, huh? So my friend, Queen Victoria, who was on the telephone with me the whole time I was circumnavigating the complicated Midland Mainline online booking system, gave me her postcode.

Alright, I am on the 6th step now, time to enter my credit card details. I got my card out and started typing in the numbers. Then I saw something that caught my eye --- credit card holder’s address must match the postcode and address entered earlier. Huh? *my blood pressure now rising* WTF is this?!

To make this long story short, I spent half a day booking unsuccessfully a damn train ticket to Sheffield, until I said – GRRR, I GIVE UP!!!

The Midland Mainline online booking does not work for international customers. The stupid limitation of the postcode requirement function during booking says enough. Other than that, the website is spewing continuously with error messages and the process to book is too complicated and long – hello, 7 steps. It makes you wonder why they started their online sales channel anyway. Queen Victoria had to go to the train station to ask what other options are available to book tickets in advance. They gave her a telephone number to call, which I used. I was able to purchase tickets - well they gave me a code instead, through a live person on the line.

Because I lost my precious time, I was fuming mad. Provoked, I emailed Midland Mainline my complaints. Yes, that’s with an s. It’s plural.

The next day, I received a response from Midland Mainline apologizing for my awful experience with them and thanking me for my suggestions (a 7 step process is too long and their website is complicated!). The agent added that the company is at the moment busy and engaged in the development of its website and an upgrade will soon be realized, which will enable international customers to book online.

Even though my online booking experience with Midland Mainline was unpleasant, I shall say that they successfully pacified a very disappointed and disgruntled customer. The agent, who exclusively handled my email complaint should be rewarded, lol. Good job!

See, I am not hard to please at all.

A Satisfied [Customer] Me

SATURDAY - While Dutchman and I were having our brunch, the telephone rang. Dutchman picked it up, murmured some undecipherable Dutch words, turned his head towards my way and said that the call was for me.

“Goede morgen mevrouw Dutched Pinay, ik bel namens OHRA...” [Good morning miss/madam Dutched Pinay, I am calling from OHRA]. OHRA is my health insurer by the way and I have been their customer for 2 years already.

The lady on the telephone continued to speak, in a very polite manner, and asked me if I have any complaints with OHRA. I said no. She then asked if I have received my renewal documents with the new premium and if I have any questions about it. I said, yes, I have received the documents but I have no questions. She furthered and asked another - if I have any suggestions to OHRA on how to improve dealings with customers. I said --- It is very important that when a customer sends out a claim, the health insurer must respond quickly and clearly. So far, my experiences with OHRA has been very good. I am a satisfied customer.

“Oh, het is altijd goed om te horen dat een klant tevreden is!” [Oh, it is always good to hear that a customer is satisfied!]

I guess I made her day, ha-ha.

Like I said in my earlier post, I am not a hard to please customer. I am not like the Dutchman who will nitpick about everything (watch out, the Dutch will always find something to complain, lol). However, I can complain and make myself heard if I don’t get my money’s worth, when I am in the mood.

A quick testimonial: Last winter, one of my fingers was injured during wintersport in Austria (read here: 112 Calling!), and not because of skiing. The Dutchman accidentally dropped the car’s trunk door on my fingers! Anyway, we first sent out the claim to our ABN Amro Travel Insurance. After a week, we received a denial letter saying we first have to submit our claim through my normal health insurance, which was OHRA. We did it and after a few days I received a letter saying they have received my claim and I will be reimbursed in a matter of days. It was very fast. And even with my previous dealings with them, they were always clear, fast and efficient.

In the norm of things, humans tend to gravitate towards the dark side of things. Most consumers do not really talk about their great product experiences. We prefer and are itching to yank and bitch when we are duped and when we have a bad hair day or product experience. Human nature it is. Bad news travel as fast as the speed of light while good news a bit slowly. Sometimes even with delay.

Which is the point of this post; I am giving a big round of applause to OHRA for being the ideal health insurer, at least for me. (hmm, pay me for the advert! lol)

In fact, I have been thinking, just thinking out loud actually, of switching to the health insurance my company is offering. The switch would save me some euros, but, taking into account a more broad perspective - the hassle and risk (switching at the end of the year is a risk in this country because the Dutch system is not at all flexible; it is rigid like plowing the field with a carabao) versus my great experience with OHRA, I decided to stick with the latter.

When a customer is satisfied, the customer will stick around and that’s what I did.

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