Category Archives: Customer Experience

My Abusive Relationship with Iberia

I’ve written how my experience moving to a foreign country with a basic level of the language was humbling and made me more accepting of circumstances (and people) and more relaxed.

However, there is one thing that can always manage to make my blood boil. No matter how long I’ve been abroad I just cannot tolerate bad customer experience. There still exists a strong mentality, at least here in Spain, that the customer is wrong. After having worked for several years in the Customer Experience research team at Forrester Research (https://www.forrester.com/Customer-Experience) back in Boston and having researched and documented the high correlation between positive CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE, consumer loyalty and positive business impact ($$), it still boggles me how there can exist this mentality and bad treatment of customers. Maybe there are still some businesses or sectors where consumers don’t have much of a choice, but with the way the world is changing so rapidly with digitalization, AI, paradigm breakers in existing sectors (think Uber, Amazon, Amazon Go, …) I don’t think this mentality will work forever.

Iberia and I have an abusive relationship. Sometimes I like being close to him to get to the end result (get from Madrid to Boston and vice versa without having to go through a layover). However, there are other times when I can’t even stand looking at him, when he disrespects me and even hangs up on me.

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Screenshot 2019-07-03 at 22.55.53

Let’s be honest; people fly to get from one point to another. I’m not looking for miracles. However, I do expect to be treated with respect, especially when there are loyalty programs involved. So, what happened the other day? Well, it goes back to 6 months ago when I tried to use my frequent flyer “avios” to purchase tickets for Boston for the summer. I figured I had enough points that I could buy my ticket and one of my child’s. As it turns out it’s almost impossible to use avios to buy tickets during high travel season. Eight months prior to the planned travel dates there was only 1 seat available that could be purchase with avios (my husband called 5 minutes afer I did and there were no longer avios seats available). In the end I purchased my seat with avios and had to pay almost 200 euros in taxes. Makes you wonder to what point it’s really worth the avios…

For my two kids (ages 5 and 2) it was impossible to apply any of my avios. I purchased their tickets for almost 2000 euros, but in order to get assigned seats for them to be near me we’d have to pay another 200 euros. I said I think it would be their mistake to try to put a 2 year old screaming for his mom in a different aisle, but I think I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it in a few weeks. I’m pretty sure someone will prefer to switch with me if Iberia won’t give us seats together than suffer 8 hours of screaming…

On top of the kids’ tickets I also purchased some sort of travel insurance that wasn’t very clear at all over the phone but made to seem as though it was an essential part of the purchase. Next thing I know I had an extra 108 euro charge on my card. When I called a few days later to ask for more information about the insurance I had purchased I was told I’d receive it via email (the same email through which I received the tickets). Nothing came. Honestly out of pure laziness of having to call Iberia again and wait on hold I put it off for months.

The other day I called Iberia to ask about the insurance policy I had semi-consciously purchased. They confirmed that I had purchased a policy for both of my children with Allianz insurance, but to receive information about the coverage I would have to speak directly with Allianz. I asked what information I would need to provide to Allianz when calling (I’ve had enough experience with being bounced back and forth) and was told that with my ticket locator number that would be enough.

Next step- I called Allianz. Not surprisingly they were unable to find my information, policy, etc. They said that likely Iberia had made a mistake and that unless I had a separate payment on my account for the insurance that it was never purchased. They were unable to look up any more information with my name or personal data; I even tried repeating my email twice (another thing I’ve had enough experience with is people not understanding me on the phone with my accent) spelling out each letter like “M as in Madrid, A as in Alemania…” Nothing.

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Their solution: send an email to a generic Allianz sales email with a proof of payment from my bank account from January. That’s when I hit the table (literally) and tried to politely express my anger at their complete lack of efficiency as I had a ticket right in front of me. As I saw I was getting nowhere the conversation ended. I immediately found the information and sent an email titled “URGENT” with the information they requested. To my surprise they answered me within a couple of hours with the information I had requested and the full policy coverage. I have to say I was impressed with this part of the service, but was it really worth it for Iberia to put me through this hassle? Talk about making things not easy for the customer.

As it turns out, despite having repeated my email address twice and having the agent repeat it back to me, he somehow had managed to completely butcher it with about 3 letters and a period missing.

So, I’ll fly with Iberia in a few weeks, and maybe things will be smooth between us for a while, but at some point we’ll hit a bump and it will go back to rocky. For now I’m not going to end our relationship as I’m still getting the final results I’m looking for, but once something more attractive comes along with less hassle (and baggage) I will be first in line. My next challenge: try to understand the insurance policy.

To be continued…

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Can airlines really deliver good experiences? Listen up Iberia Customer Experience!

Iberia, I know here in Spain you actually have a Customer Experience director (not a common job title in this country), so, read on…

Let’s face it – most airlines are pretty similar. Unless you’re taking advantage of frequent flier miles, the reason you pick one over the other is price, plain and simple. In my case, the only reason I might pick Iberia is because they have direct flights to Boston from Madrid, not because the service is great – or even that good. I think we’ve just resigned ourselves to the fact that flying is what it is – a means to get from one place to another and something that you have to put up with. (maybe you’ve seen one of my earlier airline experience posts).

So, is it possible to create a good experience?

Yes! I think it is possible to break old thinking and barriers and create something new with flying. Take a look at this article about a design consultancy’s idea “Poppi” for reinventing the airline experience:

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/07/design/airline-future-uber-airbnb/index.html

For example, instead of having customers be upset and complain for being stuck in a bad middle seat, why not let those who want a free gift choose  to go with that seat? Why not make the luggage experience more hassle-free? Why not think of ways to make the waiting time at the gate be better?  Poppi might not be a reality yet, but I hope it follows in Uber’s footsteps to shake things up.

Domino's Pizza logo

Domino’s Pizza Delivers Customer Experience

It’s been a while since I’ve written with the summer shutdown and vacation (https://spanishized.com/2015/03/31/the-summer-slowdown-is-on-the-way/). But now I’m back from the summer hiatus and happy to have a new Customer Experience story to share. And it’s an unexpected one this time.

I’ll be honest; I’m not a big fan of pizza. Well, at least not the Domino’s or Telepizza fast food type. Just seeing the newly-advertised Nacho Pizza from Telepizza for example makes me a bit uncomfortable (who thinks of these things?!)

Telepizza Nacho Pizza

However, when I was in Italy recently I was quite happy to order an Italian pizza without thinking twice. In any case, whether or not I like it here I have to admit that I was impressed with Domino’s recently when we ordered a pizza with some friends. Who would’ve thought Domino’s would be one of the companies making the move toward improving its customer experiences here in Spain

Domino's Pizza logo

Usually, after ordering a pizza online, Domino’s delivery is quick and efficient. To date we haven’t had any real issues. The other day the pizza arrived as ordered, but it was about a half hour late and COA (cold on arrival). It was one of those “well, it is what it is” moments without giving it much thought.

The next day my husband received a phone call from Domino’s asking how his experience had been: the delivery time, if the pizza arrived in a “good condition”, if it was hot etc. When he mentioned that it was more or less ok but that the pizza had arrived cold, they apologized and said the next pizza would be free.

Good job Domino’s for unexpectedly reaching out to your customers and improving your customer experience! I still don’t like fast food pizza, but the next time someone wants one I’d definitely call Domino’s first.

Carrefour’s Scan & Go Scanners – Is the purchase experience really better?

Every so often my husband and I have a similar conversation where my American roots come out in full force as I get annoyed at the workings (or lack thereof) of something here, and he gets frustrated, telling me that I’m making a big deal out of nothing. This is when I have to tell myself that it’s just not the same over here. And I wonder, “Am I really just overreacting and being too American?” The last time this happened was the other day at Carrefour. That’s right; at the supermarket. It actually wasn’t the first time that we’ve had the same discussion at the check out…

About five years ago Carrefour launched its touch screen “Scan & Go” scanners in Spain. As a loyalty card member you can pick up one of these nifty devices when you enter the hypermarket and scan your purchases along the way as you go. What’s the point? Well, as Carrefour promotes with its “innovation designed to make customers’ lives easier”, it seems there are several benefits:

Carrefour Scan & Go scanner

1. Time saver. After finishing your shopping you don’t have to wait in the long check-out lines; you go directly to the special “Scan & Go” machines where you either get a green light which lets you directly leave after paying and expresses Carrefour’s confidence in you as a customer. Or you can be chosen as a random check where an employee supposedly has to scan a few items in your cart just to make a double check, and then you’ll be on your merry way. I say “supposedly” as this is important to my story.

2. More control for the customer. you scan your own products and easily see your total purchase amount as you go. If you need to add or delete an item, no problem. also, if there’s a special offer the little machine will tell you so.

3. More fun shopping experience. As you have more control and do the scanning yourself, the experience is more enjoyable and in your hands.

4. Carrefour shows its trust.  By putting the checkout experience in the customer’s hands, Carrefour is saying that it trusts the customer and trusts that you really have scanned everything that you’ve put in your cart. GENERALLY.

So, what made my American temper shine through? This was probably the fourth of fifth time that we had finished a big shopping trip, with the cart overflowing, and encountered a “situation” at the Scan & Go checkout station. When the flashing orange light above the stand started blinking I thought, “Great, here we go again.” Now I understand that sometimes just to maintain Quality Control employees need to do a quick double check and rescan some items to verify the order. What I cannot understand is having an employee take out each and every item that we have in our cart to rescan everything again. And, of course, the end result is only to discover that no, we did not steal anything. After a few minutes when I realize that they are actually going to completely disorganize the cart and take out each item to scan again, my attitude comes out. At this point I begin my usual rantings about the lack of efficiency, what’s the point of having a scanner, why don’t they look for real thieves, etc. etc. Really, I might as well be wearing a shirt that screams “USA” to go along with my huffing and puffing.

To Carrefour: great idea to improve the experience, but bad execution when you are telling loyal customers that you don’t trust them at the end of their shopping experience. Now, trust me, I understand that robbery is a problem in Spain. However, if Carrefour consciously made the decision to implement a system such as this in its stores, then they have to show their customers they trust them. If not, instead of improving the purchase experience they are actually running the risk of turning loyal customers away and creating unnecessary frustration.

What do you think? Does Carrefour make the purchase experience better? Should this kind of system exist here in Spain? Does it work for you?

p.s. Interesting article from five years ago about Carrefour’s decision to launch Scan & go: https://socialmediaexperience.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/carrefour-scan-go-una-innovacion-de-la-experiencia-del-cliente/

Babies R Us logo

Babies R Us – What happens when a global brand goes wrong

Time for a new customer experience reflection, this time with the experience of a global brand with a presence in 13 countries:

If you’re living in the US and pregnant (or post-baby) Babies R Us is the mecca for every and any baby product that you can imagine. When I visited the Babies R Us in Massachusetts while in the US and waiting for my little bundle of joy, I was quite impressed, and at the same time quite overwhelmed, by the amount of “things” that you could need for a baby.

Then I met Phil. In a matter of a half hour Phil became my new best friend and trusted advisor. Who is Phil? Phil is a millennial. He’s a college sophomore who plays on the basketball team, hangs out with his friends after classes, and spends his free time playing on his ipad and texting. The only difference is that Phil also works part time at Babies R us and is totally knowledgeable about baby products and pregnant woman needs. And no, Phil is not a father. According to him, he has a lot of nieces and nephews so he knows a lot about this stuff, and he’s also interested in being a teacher in the future. Thanks to Phil’s help I purchased a lot of great baby knick knacks and whatnots, signed up to be on the mailing list and in the baby club and helped enhance Babies R Us’ annual profit. I also learned a thing or two about nursing needs that I’m not really sure how Phil knew, but I was too impressed to ask questions. When I left the store with my mother that day I wanted to take Phil home with us. Of course, I had a hard time later explaining to my husband that Phil was just a Babies R Us employee who happened to be awesome.

Flash forward a bit over a year to Madrid post-bundle of joy arrival: now that little Nicolas had arrived I realized we were in desperate need of some baby items like an electric swing. Then I remembered that I had seen a Babies R Us not too far away from where we lived, although I had never set foot in the store before. This time entering the store I didn’t have the same illusion as back in the US (probably from the lack of sleep), but I was ready to be greeted by my Spanish Phil (Felipe??) and start to great experience. To my disappointment, there was no Phil. In fact, there was hardly anyone at all. We had to walk around the store trying to find an employee to try to help us. When we finally did find one, she pointed to her watch and said sorry, she couldn’t help since it was her lunch break, but another employee would probably be around. We were finally able to find an employee to ask a question about the swings, only to have her reply that she really didn’t know the difference between the different models available. And that was about it. In general the employees were more on the rude side and definitely not at all like my beloved Phil.

Just last week I was back at Babies R Us in Madrid, this time with more sleep behind me and a better idea of what I wanted, but I was still “greeted” with the same lack of greeting and lack of help. After trying to find someone to ask a question for about 5 minutes, I finally just decided it just wasn’t worth it and left.

Why am I am I writing about this and why should you care if you don’t frequent Babies R Us or don’t have kids? Really this post could be about any brand that transcends international boundaries with its logo and image. As a person with quite a bit of background working in Customer Experience research and most recently in consumer goods marketing, I’m a a real proponent of the importance of delivering a consistent and better-than-good brand experience. Customer engagement is key; if you don’t deliver a full-cycle experience and/or consistent experiences (more the case here), in the long run you lose customers and profits. To me, it seems hard to believe that a global brand like Babies R Us (Toys R Us) can be willing to put its brand name, logo and all that these images stand for on a store that delivers a sub sub-prime experience. In my opinion, with an experience like this, it’s better to skip the big brand and find a local option to fit your needs.

Phil, if you’re reading this, we could use you over here in Spain!

Back to Customer Basics: Eureka Kids

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Customer Experience story here in Spain so here’s a new one I had recently with Eureka Kids after buying a walk-and-ride toy (correpasillos) for my 13 month old. You can decide for yourself how you’d rate this one.

Eureka kids logo

As the expression goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But if you buy a product and it breaks, you expect it to be fixed, right? A month ago I purchased a walk-and-ride toy (http://didicar.es/walkn-ride) at Eureka Kids in La Vaguada shopping center. Eureka kids is a big retail chain here in Spain, but the actual stores themselves are quite small, with catalogues of many products that work through distributors. The toy I bought was guaranteed delivered free of charge to my house two days later. As promised, the toy arrived two days later and my son happily began riding all over the place until…the wheels became totally blocked about 2 1/2 weeks later, much to the frustration of the little guy.

Walk and Ride toy, Didicar

Walk and Ride toy, Dicier

The next day I went to the store and was told that they couldn’t do anything there, since everything is through a distributor, and that I would have to wait until they got in touch with the distributor to see what kind of solution they could offer. So, I left with the broken bike in hand. When I didn’t hear anything back two days later, I called the store again to see what was happening. The girl who helped me was very friendly and assured me that they had put in the complaint with the distributor but hadn’t yet heard back. So, I called again the next day and still no news. Finally, one week after going to the store I received a call that in two days they would be coming to my house to pick up the broken bike and deliver a new one!

How would I rate this experience? The final result has been a success since my problem has been solved and I’ll be getting a replacement bike. But… there were definitely some unnecessary steps/frustrations in the process. It’s important to remember that from the customer POV what can stand out more than the actual end result is the ease (or lack thereof) and trustworthiness of the process itself.

The next time I would definitely think twice about buying a product that goes through a distributor instead of being in-stock in a store in case anything happens. Being a bit finicky about customer service and treatment as I am, I’d like to point out one definite item to improve: keep the customer informed! The only thing that’s gained from leaving the customer in waiting and forcing him/her to proactively connect again with the client is frustration from the client’s side and time/costs from that of the client.

A welcomed “favor” at Decathlon

Those annoying, itchy, long white tags that can be found inside a new item of clothing and that drive you crazy if you forget to take them off — DON’T do it unless you’re sure the item is a keeper. This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you’re dealing with baby clothes sometimes you just assume it’s not necessary.

The other day I went to Decathlon, a huge sports chain here in Spain, and purchased a baby swimming outfit for swimming classes, complete with little matching flip flops.

Decathlon_Logo

Decathlon baby swimsuit

My son’s a big boy, but not huge. Since he wasn’t even a year old yet I decided to go with the 18 month size. When we got home I cut off all 4 annoying tags inside the suit and headed out on my merry way. Unfortunately, when we got to the pool locker room for class I was surprised to find that the bathing suit was way too small. Someone looked like a sausage coming out of its casing. I could barely even pull up the zipper.

So…back I went to Decathlon a few days later not really sure what to expect even though I had kept the sales receipt and all of the little tags that I had cut off. The only thing I didn’t bring was my baby so he could make a sad face when I explained the sausage story.

The person who attended me was very nice and said it would be no problem (all I wanted was an even exchange for a 2 year old size – again he was only 11 months old) until he saw the cut off inside tag. Uh oh. At this point a supervisor had to be called over, to whom I explained again that I really would never have thought that an 18 month old size would be too small. After a small exchange of glances between the two employees I was told that they could do a “gestor comercial” and exchange the item for me, but it was made very clear that this was a big favor since they wouldn’t be able to resell the merchandise. Ok, got it. After a few too many thank you’s I went on my merry way once again with the new 2 year old suit.

Overall impression? I’m happy with Decathlon since they did the right thing and didn’t tell me I was “wrong”, but it was a little strange that it had to be made so clear that they were doing me a huge favor. In any case, I’ll take the gesture/favor and am pretty sure they won’t be going bankrupt because of this incident! The next time I need some sports items I’ll be heading back there.