Customer Service: A Lost Art Found

A few days ago, we decided we needed to start making reservations for later dates in our trip. We had been having some problems booking transit and places to stay, since we were traveling around the country during the holidays. We didn’t think it would be a problem, since in the US, transit companies increase capacity for major travel days. But in New Zealand, there is significantly less capacity in general, so things get booked up.

At first, we tried to do everything online, thinking that would be the most efficient. Everything was full, and hope was lost. But then I thought back to previous travel experiences, where my parents and I relied on word of mouth to find recommendations for everything from hotels to buses and taxi services. So we decided to take the personal route, and talk to people, not machines. What transpired is a testament to the importance of a personal touch in marketing.

Talking to people instead of going online, our luck started changing. Things that were booked solid online had openings with customer service reps, and they could not have been more polite. We got advice from people who lived here, which worked out great. And we saved money, too. Why? Because people care; machines do not.

The second tale in this story is a positive recounting of a dealing with Webjet, an airline booking middleman not unlike Priceline for cheap Australian and New Zealand airlines. I tried to book two plane tickets from Wellington to Auckland for the 11th for the last leg of our trip, a drive around the Bay of Islands. Unfortunately, the Webjet website froze while we submitted our credit card, and I had to stop and reload the page. Naturally, this meant I was charged twice, booking two reservations instead of one. Based on previous interactions with companies like this, I dreaded the customer service debaucle that would ensue the next day, anticipating a day on the phone and yelling with both the airline and Webjet.

I was very pleasantly surprised. I jumped on the online chat feature with Webjet, and chatted with a representative. I explained what happened, and instead of keeping me on the chat line, eating up my internet, she said she would email me with an update of the status later that day. And sure enough, a few hours later, I received a personal email from a customer service manager, explaining how they had acted and dealt with the airline so I didn’t have to, and exactly how the refund would appear on my credit card statement. It was simple, straightforward, and pleasant.

Both of these experiences really underscore the importance of customer service, even today in the Internet age. And the fact that my expectations were so low shows how many people are doing it wrong. Because of the good experience I had, I will surely book again with Webjet, and I will definitely be taking advantage of all of the personal options I have when dealing with transit bookings. They made me happy, so I will make their marketers happy in the future.

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