The Good, Bad, & Absent: A Customer Journey
"What do airplanes, tacos, and grocery stores have in common? This is a tale of three service providers. Maybe you can relate."

What do airplanes, tacos, and grocery stores have in common? This is a tale of three service providers. I keep hearing all sorts of similar tales on social media. In this story, the customer experience journey is very different for all three and maybe you can relate to one or all of them.

 

THE BAD – AIR CANADA

A friend recently booked a flight through Air Canada that would have taken him from Windsor to Toronto, Toronto to Vancouver, and finally Vancouver to Hawaii. The flights had been booked for months. The day before the flight to Toronto, he received a text message that the flight had been cancelled. A couple of hours after that, another text that his flight to Vancouver had been changed to Los Angeles with a 10-hour overlay. He only had two options, either text them back confirming the change or call a live agent and wait on the phone for 2 ½ hrs. He opted for the long phone wait in hopes of maintaining his previous schedule.

 

The Phone Call

The call resulted in him still having to find his way to Toronto to catch the flight to Vancouver which he was able to re-establish. He and his spouse however lost their previously booked seats and were told they could not book them until they arrived in person the next day.

 

Another Text Message

After driving to Toronto and having only a few hours of sleep, another text came in from Air Canada. This time, the airline provided them with seats and requested that they check-in as soon as possible. The seats, however, were not the original ones, and they would not be sitting together. An in-person visit did not yield any better. The only offered restitution was that he could fill in a form when he returns to request a refund.

 

The Landing

This was a disastrous customer experience. While Air Canada had an automated communication system, it wasn’t intuitive to the needs of the consumer. Trying to reach a live agent was incredibly difficult and when one was reached, they didn’t provide accurate information. That’s a lot of money to spend on a company who doesn’t treat you well even before you’ve used their primary services. At least my friends reached their destination alive and with their baggage.

 

Air Canada lands a D in Customer Experience.

 

THE BAD & ABSENT – TACO BELL

From bad to bad and absent. I am not a frequent Taco Bell customer. In fact, it had been years since I ran for the border, but one of the kids insisted on a birthday order. I folded like a soft taco and agreed.

 

The Order

Using the Taco Bell website, I ordered the party food and received an e-mail notification with my paid receipt that it would be ready in 40 minutes. Off we went to pick up the bag of food.

 

Anticipating a busy fast-food place, I arrived about 15 minutes early in the event there were issues. Yes, consider that foreshadowing.

 

The Pick-Up

With time to spare, I thought we’d go in. Eventually greeted, the counterperson informed us that the order had not yet been made and that she needed to re-enter it as there was some confusion with a delivery service order. I am still somewhat confused myself on what that was all about, but her re-entering took about 10 minutes.

 

After that, we were told the order was going to take another 30 minutes to be filled. While we were disappointed and frustrated, we waited for the order. 30 minutes had passed and still our order was not being filled. There was confusion. There was food falling on the floor. The line-up behind us was building. Then my spouse noticed that as they were making parts of our order, workers were taking it to fill drive-through orders. After speaking up, what appeared to be a manager began to mutter something under her mask at us but refused to come speak with us.

 

Another fellow, who may or may not have been a manager, eventually filled our order. Nothing extra, no apologies, just here’s your bag and go (oh and they had run out of their signature sauces, so we ended up with some Louisiana sauce from KFC).

 

The Food

Of course, after finally arriving at home and unpacking the order there were things missing, there were things we didn’t order, and most of it was all mashed up. It was a tough eat as we tried to salvage the birthday wishes.

Taco Bell Sloppy Food

 

The Follow-up

A follow-up with Taco Bell Canada on-line resulted in no response. Calling the Canadian Taco Bell Customer line resulted in the agent giving us another number, which was Taco Bell USA. The agent at that number gave us a phone number for Taco Bell Canada, which was the original number we called, and they were only willing to deal with Kentucky Fried Chicken calls. After calling back the USA number, the agent agreed to open a ticket and provide us a refund in 3-5 business days. After a couple of weeks of follow-ups, the USA agent sent an e-mail saying we needed to call the Canadian Taco Bell number.

 

It's been an endless loop of no one wanting to take any accountability.

 

Stay Away from The Border

The food was bad. The service was bad. The customer support was bad and absent.

 

Every single part of the customer experience was bad and when you add absent to it, Taco Bell doesn’t even deserve a grade. They get a zero and in this case it’s a generous zero.

 

THE BAD & GOOD – LONGO’S GROCERY MARKET

One of the positive outcomes from the pandemic is that I may have perfected our homemade pizza. It’s so good, the family often prefers it to restaurant bought. That said, one busy Friday we decided to order pizza from Longo’s Grocery Markets through their hot-food service.

 

In-Store Order

My spouse placed the order at the counter and was told it would be ready in 30 minutes. She shopped while she was waiting for the pizzas. After 30 minutes she returned to pick them up and was told, “I forgot to make them”. The cook offered to make them and that she should go back in another 30 minutes. She was not going to wait another 30 minutes, with everyone already hungry at home. That was the bad.

 

Contacting Longo’s

Disappointed in the experience, I reached out to Longo’s Market through Twitter. Given the Taco Bell experience, I was skeptical that anyone would respond. To my surprise, they not only responded, but were interested in understanding the entire situation. They followed that up with a cash credit for the value of a pizza and were going to work with the specific store location to help prevent similar future instances.

 

Making It Right

While the in-store customer experience was bad, the follow-up was good. Longo’s Customer Care actually cared. They were responsive. They were willing to listen and validate the experience. They apologized and they tried within their post in-store experience capabilities.

 

While the in-Store Longo’s Hot Food Service gets an F for not making the pizzas, their Customer Care gets an A+ for making it right.

Longo Rewards

 

CULTURE & LEADERSHIP MATTERS

Providing a positive customer experience is not hard to achieve if you have the right culture and leadership that holds the consumer at the core of their business values. It is clear to me when I look at these three examples that both Air Canada and Taco Bell are dealing with culture issues. Air Canada is seemingly understaffed and their reliance on technology to interact with consumers from an efficiency and communication perspective is having the opposite effect. While the Taco Bell location I visited had some very specific local operating issues like training, communication, ordering procedures, and leadership, their customer support is as equally bad in all those same aspects.

 

While Longo’s had some operating challenges in-store, they have made a commitment to follow-through on customer service post-sales and to do it in a way that demonstrates respect for the customer and improvement opportunities for the store.

 

I’m sure you have your own service stories, and I am always open to hearing them and maybe they will be featured in a future article or podcast episode. Please feel free to contact me through the website contact information.

 

This is an opinion article by Guido Piraino of  The Monthly Social Podcast , The It's Not The Ref Exclusive Podcast , and may be heard on The Path Radio Mix Online.