You know how stuff sometimes just goes wrong?

IMG_0658You might be aware that I recently spent a week in the Canary Islands on the Island of Las Gomeras during the first week of January.

It was a superb break. We couldn’t fault the hotel, the staff, the scenery, the food, the weather. It wasn’t too crowded (no fighting over the sun beds) the flights were comfortable and we were generally looked after really well.

I was confident we would be looked after simply because of the travel agent we used (Kuoni) who gave us such a wonderful experience last summer when I took Josie abroad for the first time. They gave all of us memories to treasure and experiences that you can’t put a price on and we hoped for the same this time round.

The thing is that this time, they didn’t get it quite right. Don’t misunderstand me all of the above stuff is correct. We couldn’t fault any of it but here’s the thing, they hadn’t listened well enough to our requirements and this meant were felt disappointed in two areas.

When we booked, we specifically requested somewhere that was within 3 – 4 hours flight time. We were only going for a week so to spend 10 – 1 hours flying and possibly recovering from jetlag wasn’t really that appealing. Now, Tenerife is 4 hours away. So that bit was fine but there is also a ferry ride to the island we were staying on which takes about an hour.   Again, this is fine, we’d expected transfers, it’s fairly normal.

The problem is that it turns out that the ferry only goes from Tenerife to Las Gomeras once a day, at 4pm. We had got the early flight to make the most of our first day which meant we spent most of that day lounging around a ferry terminal waiting to get across to Las Gomeras. So, we get the ferry, then the hair-raising car drive across the Island to face our second challenge where we felt let down.

The other request we had was to be able to go somewhere we could eat out, locally so we plumped for bed and breakfast option rather than half or full board. The half board option in the summer with Josie was perfect as it meant a huge variety of food, including stuff she’ll eat on tap. We wanted to be a little adventurous however.

New Years day on an Island with one hotel and a population of just 21,000 is not the time or place to go for a romantic walk on the beach at dusk and find food when you’re ready to eat your suitcase and working really hard not to get wound up by the overlong journey that should have been 6 hours but took 13.

We also quickly realised that getting food in the hotels many fine (and they were outstanding) restaurants was going to put us just a little over our expected spend. This in itself wasn’t a problem because we loved the food but it was the frustration of not having our requirements listened too.

Oh, and then we realised that the only ferry from Las Gomeras to Tenerife was at 8am which meant waking at 5am to get the transfer and yes, our flight was not until 2pm that afternoon.

Now this isn’t a complaint or a moan; we had a great time, we made the most of it and enjoyed every second of our holiday and we’d go back and we also recognised that the mistakes came from being dealt with by someone slightly newer and less experienced in the business who perhaps didn’t have the knowledge to check ferry times and food availability.

We will certainly be using Kuoni again and let me tell you why…

Things go wrong, I get that. Shit happens and you can moan about it or make the most of the good bits. Our holiday wasn’t spoiled by it, it was lessened a little but not ruined.

Still…

We wrote a letter; not a complaint but feedback and Kuoni’s response is why we’re fans for life.

Firstly the website was slightly unclear as to where to send our “feedback” to so we picked an contact email address at random and sent it.

They responded, within a day with a really polite, empathic holding email.

Then they tried to call but we weren’t in so they sent another email to explain that they were disappointed to get our feedback but they would investigate and as ABTA members would get back to us within 21 days with an initial response.

This they duly did but within 7 days with another call, not an email but they picked up the phone and spoke to us.

They apologised.

They didn’t try to make excuses and they were grateful for the feedback.

Now at this point I’m really happy; they under promised and over delivered on the response time and just apologised; Lovely.

They then proceeded to let us know that they hoped we would accept a voucher for a meal for two on them and two bottles of wine as a gesture.

Did someone say wine?

We’d love to thank you.

This was last week. The wine turned up today in a lovely presentation box from a hamper company which included a note, reinforcing the apology. What I really liked is although the note was printed by the hamper company, it was sent from the High Wycombe branch, where we had booked.

Simple stuff, done well. I could think of a few ways to improve it but that doesn’t take away the fact they had a system.

They may be one of the best in their industry but someone has sat down and thought…

“We’re really good, we charge more, we give great experiences but sometimes we’re going to mess up and what shall we do about it when we do?”

Not if we do – when we do.

Shit happens.

And shit will happen in your business too.

It’s how you deal with it that counts and more importantly that you think about how to deal with it before it happens so that when it does (because it will), that you have a process in place that you can follow and act upon.

Kuoni’s customer service is exceptional in my opinion, even when things go wrong and I’m a bigger fan now, than I was before because they didn’t hide from their mistakes and had a process that quickly took us from disappointed and thinking about going elsewhere to fans.

So don’t hide…

Accept and embrace that shit will happen and think, in advance “what can I do to make the most of it and turn that complaint into a positive”.

Use that information to make you even better at what you do and you might be surprised at the response you get.

 

 


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