When things go wrong, communicate

In three separate instances recently, I have been frustrated by poor communication on the part of service industries I deal with.

In the first instance I was drastically affected by an airline schedule change, and it was not made at all clear to me what my options were–and when I worked it out and tried to to take advantage of the best option for me, the airline tried to charge me for it, claiming I had “already agreed to the schedule change”.  To be fair, I did eventually get what I needed with no additional fees to pay, and I was thrilled, but it seems a bit sad to be thrilled by an airline doing the right thing.

In the second, I found out that my favourite class was being cancelled at my local recreation centre from feedback they posted publically to another class, saying they would be moving that class into the room we had previously occupied.

In the third case, I was phoned the day before a booked appointment to say that I would not be able to keep my appointment (and offered two less convenient times as alternatives) because the professional I was to see was “not in”.  When I pressed to try and see the person with whom I had an existing relationship, I was told they had left the business.  This from a business that would charge me a 50% cancellation fee if I were to cancel within 24 hours of an appointment.

In all three of these cases, the disappointing thing that happened was inevitable, and I am not blaming the companies concerned for what happened.  What I am blaming them for, and what really made me angry, was their inability to communicate with me properly and in a timely fashion about the issues which affected me, and the paucity of alternatives I was offered (at least in the first and third cases).

Things go wrong in life, particularly in those industries where a product and a service are sold together.  In most cases users will be pretty forgiving if they understand what has gone wrong, and you communicate with them and explain what their options are from the outset.  In the instances where something goes wrong, communication is the key to keeping a user as happy as it is humanly possible to do, and keeping them using your service rather than anyone else’s.

Has anyone else had an experience where communication made the difference between grudging satisfaction and outright annoyance?


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