Of course it isn’t all fun and games (even though I was speaking at Bowl Expo in Vegas!): there are customer service stories to share with you!
As one would expect, they really know how to serve customers well in Las Vegas. Friendly staff and entertainment almost everywhere. But, of course, there is no utopia. So…
The Helicopter Ride That Nearly Wasn’t
My 87 year old mother agreed to come with me on this trip to Vegas. Even more surprising, she eagerly agreed to go on a helicopter ride over the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead & Grand Canyon.
I had booked the ride through Viator. The first interesting part of the customer experience was when I saw that there were two flights by the same company, same description, departing at the same time. One was labelled “Sunset Tour”. The other didn’t have the word “sunset” and cost about $100 less.
So I called Viator to ask about the difference. The call center agent had no idea. She put me on hold for several minutes, then came back and said, “Um, one is the Sunset Tour.”
“Yes,” I answered. “But what is the difference?” She put me on hold again.
After a couple of rounds of this, I finally asked, “Is there any difference other than the word “sunset”?”
She paused, then said, “I don’t think so.”
Still wondering, I tried to contact the company, but it was impossible to tell from Viator’s site which company it was, so that was not an option. (It was described only as “Grand Canyon West Rim Luxury Helicopter Tour”.)
So I booked the cheaper one.
Customer Service Mistake #1: Poorly Trained Staff & Inadequate Descriptions
There may be mixed blame for this one.
Viator clearly hadn’t educated its staff adequately. The poor customer service rep went back to ask for more information at least 3 times. This wasted my time and hers.
But it may also be that the tour supplier hadn’t provided adequate details.
Customer Service Mistake #2: Disorganization
As requested on the receipt, I called the tour company 48 hours before the flight to confirm everything. All sounded good, except the pickup time was going to be 4:30 instead of between 5 – 6 as indicated on the receipt. Not a problem: our schedule that day was flexible.
The next day I got this text message:
I called. (Triggering my out-of-country roaming charge.) Turned out they were simply repeating all the details we’d discussed during my call the day before.
Their system should have noted that we’d already called and gone through all the details. Again, a waste of their time and mine.
Customer Service Mistake #3: Poor Messaging
The next day was the day of the tour. We were pretty excited, especially my mom, who had told all her friends about it.
During the afternoon I spotted a message on my phone that was identical to the one from the previous day. So I assumed it was yet a 3rd confirmation and ignored it. A little while later the identical message came through again. We were in a noisy place, so I sent back a text, saying “Regarding?”
At 4:30 we showed up to meet our tour. The van and driver were there, but he regretfully informed us that they had been trying to reach us to tell us that they were cancelling that flight because nobody else had booked it.
My mother was devastated. The van driver clearly felt bad, and let my mother wait in the air conditioned van while I was on the phone with their customer service rep to discuss the situation.
Customer Service Mistake #4: Blaming the Customer
They said the problem was my fault because I hadn’t answered their messages.
Customer Service Mistake #5: Not Checking For Customer Reply
I told them that I had, but had received no reply.
Customer Service Mistake #6: Failure to Leave Detailed Messages
Turns out they had also left a voice message which we hadn’t heard over the din of Las Vegas, but, like the texts, it didn’t give any information about why they wanted us to call. Nor did they leave a message at the hotel, even though they knew which hotel we were at.
To their credit, they did at first offer to put us on the actual Sunset Tour the following evening, but it wasn’t clear that I’d be done with my talk in time to catch the shuttle bus. They suggested taking an Uber or cab to their airport, which would have run us about US$90. I felt they should pay for that. They refused.
Customer Service Mistake #7: Escalation
I can see how their perspective and mine differed. From their point of view, they had tried to call us to reschedule on the same day. They were trying to compromise, offering us the opportunity to do what was a more expensive tour the next day. So from their perspective, paying for the taxi as well would probably have cut seriously into their profit margin.
I’ve already explained my point of view.
They also basically accused me of either being a liar or an idiot, because I hadn’t been able to find them easily when booking to learn more about the Sunset tour. But, of course, Viator had hidden the name of the operator (5 Star Helicopter Tours). They didn’t know that. so from their perspective, it simply added to their feeling that I was being unreasonable.
Eventually they said they could delay the shuttle departure by about 15 minutes, which would probably give me enough time to get there after my speech. I agreed, but also asked for the location of the helicopter departure pad so I could get there by Uber if we missed the shuttle.
Customer Service Mistake #8: Cancelling An Offer After You’ve Made It & The Customer Has Accepted
I thought we had an agreement, but the woman on the phone put me on hold. Then the line went dead.
I called back. She told me that she’d changed her mind: they would no longer accept us on the tour the next day! Then she hung up.
I was stunned.
My mother was crushed.
The Happy Ending
I called Viator to see if there was anything they could do. (Apparently there wasn’t, but again the call center rep had no idea how to handle the situation.)
While I was on hold, I found another tour company, Papillon. Same length of time in the air, flying over the same areas, without making us stop in the gift shop for half an hour, and with a later shuttle departure time, so I could easily make it from my talk.
Papillon’s service was great, from the staffer on the phone, through to the drivers, check in staff and pilot. If you want to do a helicopter tour in Vegas, I highly recommend Papillon.