When you're looking for examples of inconsistent service, inadequate deployment of technology and an overall ability to frustrate, nothing beats the travel industry. Even the most wonderful vacation or successful business trip probably includes at least one memory of a close call, glitch or aggravation thanks to a careless or clueless service provider. These screw-ups provide object lessons to banks about the limits and opportunities of technology, and how easy it is for an experience or relationship to go sour. Some recent incidents reminded me of this truism.
Planning an upcoming vacation, my husband reserved a rental car through a well-known travel portal. When it turned out that we wouldn't need the car, the task of canceling the reservation became a process that required the patience of a saint and the perspicacity of Sherlock Holmes. When hubby called the number printed with our confirmation, a pleasant recording told him that the wait for a service representative would be several hours (not kidding). Trying to access the reservation online got me tangled in a mess of forgotten or never-registered passwords, incomplete click-throughs and annoying pop-ups before I finally figured out how to call up the reservation - only to be greeted by a screen that said, "We have your reservation but cannot display the information at this time."
Luckily I found another toll-free service number. At this point, I wasn't surprised that the options on the automated menu did not allow me to automatically cancel the reservation. So I waited a mere 20 minutes to finally speak to a nice lady who was able to cancel the reservation. When I related my saga, she assured me she would report my complaint and that someone would follow up with me. A week later, I'm still waiting. The whole experience almost seemed intentional, to frustrate me and force me to eat the charge for the car.
I'll need another column to report on my suitcase that, somehow, just didn't make it onto the (half-full) flight from O'Hare to Newark last week. Mistakes happen, but when they seem to stem from carelessness - or worse - one ends up wanting to take one's business elsewhere. No company is so successful to be able to encourage that response.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio