Customer Service Lesson: Old rules still apply

The slew of digital channels today may have made companies drastically change their monitoring systems, organizational channels structure and even tone for how they respond to customer complaints because let’s face it, it’s like we have a megaphone. But when it comes to how to handle complaints, the old rules apply.

Here’s a story on my recent Airbnb altercation:

I used Airbnb to book an apartment for my family for the holidays. I felt great because I had found an affordable and nearby place waaaay back in August. And if you knew how chaotic my life has been this year, this was certainly an accomplishment I felt proud of.

BUT,  with less than 24 hours before the family arrival,  I found out that the host had cancelled their account with airbnb and both the service and the host had failed to notify me. I was left with no place for the family to stay. Crisis.

So I complained.  On Facebook, Twitter, email and phone.  Just as any modern customer would do. They responded right away, noted they had ‘seen’ my tweet and called back, gave me some options and even gave me some time to decide what I wanted to do. They accepted fault even though they blamed it on the host at first (yes, it’s her fault but they should have checked in the first place). They also offer a refund and/or help getting a new place with some credit. Their auto-messages were a little confusing, but because their rep called me quickly and talked to me directly I didn’t have time to get fully pissed off about the online issues.

The result is not great — I still wasted a bunch of time and it ended up costing me more money, but the family will have a place to stay. Truthfully if it wasn’t for my fab boss who offered his house I would have been screwed. So anyway, I’m not happy with Airbnb, but I recognize their efforts to compensate for their mistake and I may actually use them again (with caution). It may help that I’ve been on the other side of this equation so I know how it feels to piss off a customer.

Now see what Airbnb did:

  1. Responded quickly with a HUMAN – computers are not good in calming people down
  2. Listened and acknowledged my frustration and the mistake
  3. Offered some options to resolve the problem
  4. Did NOT pressure to make a decision right away

That’s classic customer service rules and you know what? They still work. And come to think about it, you can apply to personal matters too.

—One slightly less pissed off Airbnb customer.

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