Tag Archives: Customer Service

I was in the US for a month for summer holidays. Here are a few reflections.

I love the US. How can I not? I was born and raised there and it was my life for 26 years. I also love Spain. The more time I’ve lived in Spain the more I’ve become used to the Spanish way of living… and actually become Spanish. It’s been 13 years and the most recent years of my life.

It was great to be home with family in the US, which was the main objective, and also to have my kids immersed in English for a whole month. After having spent such an extended time there, there  are some things that stood out out in my mind that I wanted to share:

  • Where do kids in the US play? I have no shame in admitting that many times we googled “playgrounds” to see if there were any decent public play areas near where we were staying as we moved around. Turns out this isn’t an easy feat. In Madrid there are so many around where we live in the suburbs that you could probably go to a different, nice playground every day for a month without repeating.  Also where we live in Majadahonda we have a large, shared pool in our apartment complex that all the kids go to every day during the summer – no invite required. We found some good parks that we visited near Boston, but they required driving 20+ minutes to get there and there weren’t too many kids. This just made me wonder “what did I do as a kid?” I remember playing out in the street in my neighborhood, but I think the big thing is the US is going to friends’ houses and having your kids play with theirs with playdates. There’s nothing wrong with this, but the plus of having great public playgrounds is that you don’t have to be social with other adults for your kids to have fun. I don’t exactly consider myself an introvert, but it’s nice to just be able to go to a big public park where no one knows you and let your kids run around and make friends or not. If they hit someone or steal a toy the consequences won’t be personal.

Here are some pictures of some typical parks in the outskirts of Madrid.

  • Drive thrus. Surprisingly (and fortunately) this hasn’t yet made its way to Spain in the same magnitude as in the US. I had forgotten how prevalent drive throughs are in the US. This first hit me one day with my sister as we pulled into Dunkin Donuts. I told her I’d be out in a second to which she replied, “but we’ll just go through the Drive Thru”. Honestly it hadn’t even occurred to me. The coffee shop, the banks, the pharmacy, the car wash – you name it. Life made easy, but is it too easy?
  • Customer service can suck in the US as well. As you may now if you’ve read my blog, Customer Service/Customer Experience is something that is important to me. I’ve written many posts about not-so-great customer experiences here in Spain, as this is still something that has a long way to go. However, I discovered during our trip that it’s not all roses in the US either. We had a wonderful experience with Rentalcars.com (Hertz being the provider for a rental car) in which we were given a pick up location for the car that no longer exists. The hotel where we went to get the car no longer has a Hertz office there. When I contacted the Hertz office they were about to close in 20 minutes and were of absolutely no help. To make a long story short they ended up hanging up on me after saying they wouldn’t do anything and left us with no way to get back home and without a rental car. The best is that Rentalcars.com had already charged us for the entire two week rental. Note: do not use Rentalcars.com! The best thing is definitely to go directly with the company, even if you end up spending a little bit more. In the end we had to pay for an uber back to our house and then having to deal with Rentalcars.com on the phone so they could refund the payment they’d already received. Then we had to reserve a new car…
  • Coffee. Once you get used to the European coffee it’s hard to go back. Punto.

Overall it was a great trip home, but I still don’t see myself moving back to the US any time soon. I don’t think I would have a full month of vacation to be writing a blog like this, to start…

 

 

Advertisements

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.

Customer Service Spain

When it doesn’t pay to call customer service.

When doesn’t it pay to call a company service line? When you (the customer) are the one who is paying. Literally.

Being from the US I’m used to calling a company’s 800 number and being able to speak to a representative to solve whatever issue I may have. Here in Spain you can almost always find a number to contact a company’s “atención al cliente”, but beware … You may be the one paying for the call.

paying customer

Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this until one day I received a whopping 40€ phone bill after calling Iberia’s 902 prefix customer service line to book a trip with my infant using points. It wasn’t possible to do all of this on the web site, so I picked up the phone and called customer service. I was quite impressed with the friendly person that assisted me and with all of her help to get everything in place. Since the transaction was a bit tricky involving using my loyalty points, including an infant on the ticket, reserving a baby bassinet, etc., the whole process took over a half hour. I was quite satisfied with everything until I received my phone bill a few weeks later…

customer representative

Here’s how to avoid having the same thing happen to you:

You can find alternative free numbers to most of the 900/901/902 toll customer service numbers here in Spain by looking up the number on one of these websites:

http://nomas900.info 

http://www.lineas900.com

http://www.nmn900.com

So what went wrong with the experience here? In my opinion, the biggest mistake was the lack of transparency on the company’s part.

Transparency is key. It’s really not that tricky. A good way to gain customer’s loyalty and repetition is with honesty. No one likes feeling that they’ve been tricked. If I had known I were going to pay for that call I may not have been happy about it, but at least I would have known what I was getting into and would not have been shocked later. Each interaction a company has with its customers has an impact on its brand. In this case the impact was two-fold: originally great customer service, then subsequently an angry feeling of being tricked and having to pay without knowing it. The result? The negative experience is the one that is definitely most impactful and remembered.

As a last reflection I’d like to share a great Salesforce.com article in Forbes that talks about Great Customer Service, including the importance of every interaction and transparency:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/salesforce/2014/09/13/truths-great-customer-service/

Somehow I feel like the authors would just be shaking their head reading this post! As I’ve mentioned from the start of this blog, the Customer Experience will be the next competitive battleground, but it’s clear that there’s still a lot of groundwork to be done until we get there.