Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Do I Expect Too Much From Customer Service?

“Y ou get what you pay for” is what I was told by someone a few hours ago when I imparted about my customer service experience with Megabus — but I respectfully disagree.

With virtually every business transaction comes a certain expectation of customer service. For example, when you purchase a hamburger with pickles and the pickles are not on your hamburger, you do not expect the employee behind the counter to either deny your request for pickles or charge you extra for them — even if you only paid 99 cents for the hamburger — that is, unless the usual policy is to charge customers extra for pickles or that the restaurant does not typically have pickles on the premises.

If the employees fail significantly to satisfy you and the source of the blame is within the company, the company should do whatever it takes within reason to ensure your satisfaction and increase the chance that you will return to patronize that company in the future, in my opinion.

Megabus has an interesting policy where if you arrive at your destination greater than two hours late, you automatically receive a refund, as I found out in the following alert sent to me via e-mail message…

Dear Valued Client, takes pride in providing on time service however delays can occur for reasons beyond our control. We are sorry for any inconvenience today’s delay may have caused.  To compensate you for this delay we have refunded your fare. Please allow 3-5 business days for the refund to post to your account.

Thank you for using we appreciate your business.

The Megabus Team

…and that sounds like a great policy. Could you imagine if airlines and lodging companies had a similar policy?

However, the customer service department at Megabus seems to be lackluster at best.

In this article, I alluded to a fellow passenger on the bus with me who received nothing but frustration when he tried to be booked on the next bus, as he missed his connection to New York due to our bus being significantly late. He was attempting to confirm himself on an available bus from Washington, D.C. before everyone else would attempt to do that once the bus arrived at Union Station; but the customer service agent kept telling him that he or she could not do anything until the current leg of the trip was completed. He argued that that did not make any sense: if he wanted to book a new reservation, the customer service agent would have handled it with no problem.

That telephone conversation continued in a vicious circle. Only after he had been on the telephone arguing with that customer service agent for at least 30 minutes did I suggest to him to hang up and try again. He finally was told that he was already “protected” on the next bus; and that he would automatically get a refund for this bus trip.

It would have been nice if he had been told those two important details at the beginning of the telephone call.

Considering that I only paid a total of five dollars for the entire round trip between Atlanta and Washington, D.C. on Megabus, my refund will most likely be $2.50 minus fees. I will probably get a whole dollar for my losing greater than three hours due to delays which were easily preventable…

…but before I lose myself and imagine all of the things on which I can spend that new-found dollar, I thought I would ask for a favor: if I could be allowed to change my return trip to a different day at a different time at no additional charge or fee.

I was flatly refused — and more than once, too, as I use the “if you do not like the answer, try again” technique myself. The only thing I could do was apply what I paid for the return portion of the trip and cover the cost difference of the change — a total of $76.50 — plus a fee of six dollars. I declined.

After politely expressing my displeasure in an e-mail message, I received the following canned form letter via e-mail message:

Dear Valued Customer strives to provide you with the best possible service, and when
you feel that it fails to meet your expectations, it is important for us to
know. We apologize that you received service that prompted you to contact
us with a complaint, and we regret any inconvenience or frustration that
your experience has caused you. Your patronage is important to us, and we
hope you will continue to give us the opportunity to serve you again.

Thank you for using we appreciate your business.

Megabus Customer Service Specialist

I will bet that the last time a human being composed anything in that message was done years ago — unless it was generated by a computer, of course.

Megabus is obviously under no obligation to fulfill my request, of course. Yes, I did pay a fantastically low rate. Yes, I have received and will be receiving the service for which I paid. Yes, I survived not only the bus trip — I consider it a preparation for the hours I will be traveling on the ground while on a short safari in Kenya once I leave for Nairobi in a couple of days — but I also survived the long delay. Yes, airlines have a similar policy and most likely would not accommodate me in a similar situation…

…and yes, I know that there are plenty of people in this world who would take full advantage of any person or company who grants them any deviation from official policy. However, I believe that a customer deserves good customer service — no matter what he or she paid for a product or service; and no matter what is the circumstance. Unsatisfactory customer service experiences negate the value of the service or product offered. Employees should be empowered with a reasonable amount of flexibility to ensure that a customer is happy enough to want to patronize the company again in the future.

I am expecting one more reply from Megabus which will remain firm on upholding its decision not to grant what I consider to be a simple request which would cost them virtually nothing; and after I receive that reply, I will consider this case closed and probably not patronize Megabus in the future once I complete the return trip to Atlanta. I am sure that the company would not miss me as a customer if I did leave — especially as I was fortunate enough to snag one of their famous one dollar rates.

In the meantime, I suppose I should be happy that I will eventually receive an automatic refund in the amount of a dollar or so, as there are far worse things in the world about which to be concerned

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

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