Shopping for a birthday gift for my father’s wonderful wife this week, I considered giving her something I would enjoy too: a gift certificate for airfare. I hoped she’d use the gift certificate to buy a plane ticket to visit me! Using Orbitz would give her choices about which airline to fly, so I sent Orbitz’s customer service team this e-mail query: “Does Orbitz offer gift certificates? I’d like to purchase one for a birthday gift.”
The reply I received, below, is four kinds of bad. (It’s also one kind of good, but the four kinds of bad overwhelm the good.) Read the e-mail then read my list, below.
- Good: restate the customer’s question. Doing so focuses the customer’s attention and enables the customer service agent to establish rapport from the start. Restating the customer’s question is like saying “I hear you loud and clear.” But, of course, the agent has to answer the customer’s question or restating it is pointless.
- Bad: a misspelling in the first line. Or is it a grammar error? When I see a typo like this, I begin to wonder whether the answer I’m receiving is correct.
- Bad: irrelevant instructions. Why are you telling me this? I wouldn’t be selecting the flight; the gift certificate recipient would. And I still don’t know whether Orbitz sells gift certificates.
- Bad: confusing and irrelevant. Unlike the instructions for selecting a flight, which are clearly off topic, these purchase-related instructions are nearly, kinda, sorta on topic. If Orbitz does sell gift certificates, I’ll need to know how to purchase one. So this paragraph attracts attention and confuses thoroughly.
- Bad: obviously a “canned” response. By this point in the e-mail, I’m certain that everything after the first sentence is canned. The agent just threw in a bunch of paragraphs and hit send.
With this e-mail, Orbitz’s customer service has proven to be useless in helping me buy a gift certificate. I’ll remember this experience the next time I’m making a travel purchase. Maybe I’ll just go with Expedia?
— Leslie O’Flahavan
P.S. I gave her a gift certificate to Nordstrom’s. It was a cinch to buy online. Now that’s customer service.