How can a major corporation get it SO wrong?
This is not the hardest blog I have ever had to write, let me explain. It is 18:45 on a beautiful summer’s evening, the day before my birthday and I am sat on our veranda overlooking a deep blue pool in the Costa Calida, the southern tip of Spain; it’s here where my SCALE story takes us to this month.
I usually have a list of things that people send me on a monthly basis that I could write about, however sometimes the world of business just dishes up a barnstormer of a scenario where a company is getting it WRONG most of the time, no I lie, in our case ALL of the time.
My story begins on a website, as a lot of business transactions do. Late one Saturday I am searching for flights from London(ish) to Southern Spain (Alicante, Murcia, San Javier). My preferred choice is Southampton, due to the small terminal (no shopping) and 30-minute wait time. The travel gods are smiling on me tonight as I manage to get a flight for Jacki, Lily and James at quite a reasonable price and not 3:00 o’clock in the morning. So I immediately grab them.
Now we all know what should happen after a purchase on a website and it does – the upsell. Would you like a car Mr. Norbury? Well yes, I would thank you. Flybe’s chosen partner is Avis, a reputable company, a little expensive but hey pay a bit more to get a quality service. As I write this I am not smiling at that last comment, as the next part of my tale will explain.
Where do I order the kids car seats? I have told you that the four of us are travelling including the ages and names. Lily and James aged 3 years and 8 months. It, therefore would not take a genius to work out Messrs Avis that we would require seats for the twins. However, it does not give me that option, so I have to email them separately with the booking details. I eventually get a response back with a new booking reference that 2 toddler seats will be waiting for me at Alicante airport. I joke to Jacki that hopefully the car will also be waiting for us, little did I know…
On arriving in Spain I am greeted by a very pleasant, smiley, Spanish lady. ‘Good Evening Senor Norbury, my name is Nathalie, it is my pleasure to welcome you to Avis this evening.’
So far so good. I had noticed people are coming and going quickly ahead of me, so a slick service as well. I’m impressed.
That was, however until it got to me!
An hour later and I am still being welcomed by Nathalie, the smiling sales assassin. Our second challenge was, yes you’ve guessed it; we have two booking numbers and the second one supersedes the first one. So all we really have are two toddler seats to collect. Now I know I am known as The Scalability Coach, but I would find it a tough call to create a 7-seater from two seats. Nathalie does not see the funny side of this (nor does my wife trying to contain two very over tired kids running riot around the hot, packed airport) and trawls through the system to find my original request for a seven-seater Mercedes Vanio or equivalent.
When I originally ordered my car I selected a large seven seater (Mercedes Van) as we have the four of us as well as the luggage. We also meet up with my mum and step dad, so require six seats plus of course the beach stuff.
The actual car I am being offered is a Volkswagen Touran, not quite the same but it’s OK, it’s getting late, we are all tired and I am sure it will be a change to the £666.07 I have already paid.
Yep I was right it was a change – the new price, Mr Norbury is now £1,300.
Even in Euros I would have been horrified. Apparently it is all the extras I wanted (I did say smiling assassin) the CDW, roadside recovery, extra seats, Oh child seats, admin charge, windscreen cover, diesel (do you need fuel!) etc. etc. etc. As I said I was tired and the kids were creating havoc by now, so I smiled, said I will speak to someone later and left.
Mental note, the price is NOT the price and the CAR is not the CAR. OK, vamos!
After we find the Avis station in the underground car park, two toddler car seats are just sat there, daring me to read the Spanish instructions and fit them into our Volkswagen Touran.
We have two VERY tired children, a dehydrated wife, a dark car park, an unfamiliar car and the krypton factor of challenges. Why oh why do they not fit ISO FIX seats. Eventually after a lot of huffing and puffing I call over the attendant and plead with him to help us, he readily obliges not because of the customer service aspect or the willingness to help, but purely as I had moved the car in front of a down exit and was now causing a jam. Yep that annoying guy you see on holiday was now me. It would have been so easy to have the seats in the car waiting but oh no health and safety says we cannot install the seats you have to do it yourself. Apparently this is not just peculiar to Avis I am told, but every hire company (despite them fitting them in the end anyway – as well as crushing my new sunglasses that had dropped to the floor!)
The solution therefore is to get the customer installing a new seat in a new car in a cramped environment rather than a trained expert, who does it every day. I know what I would rather happen.
Some several hours after landing we get out of the car park and are heading down the A7 to Mazarron and the sanctity of our villa.
Are the headlights on as it is getting dark, (what does Ventanas operado centralmente actually mean?) as it flashes up on the screen continually.
Again you have probably experienced this or guessed it, the car is set up in Spanish. It would not have taken a massive effort or even time to run through some basic instructions and change the language to make us, the customer feel at ease. Potentially even letting me know it is a diesel car and not unleaded.
Two days into our holiday and I notice a new light on the dashboard, which on my home car means run-flat. Does Volkswagen have run-flats? I was soon to find out NOW as the car lurched to the left. Front tyre was as flat as a Spanish Omelette. Was there a spare? How was I to know I was basically mugged of £1,300 and thrown a set of keys to a £25,000 car!
Next month in Part 2 I will continue my sorry tale (it gets worse!), but also highlight where Avis are getting it wrong and I think you will be surprised at my observations. It happened to me when I took over a large organisation and started to deal with CEOs of multi-billion pound businesses.
Also next month I will help you not make the same mistakes all companies inevitably do as they start to SCALE.