CRM Case Study On Orbitz: How to Insult, Irritate, Patronize, Stress And Lose Customers; Open Solutions

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CRM Case Study On Orbitz: How to Insult, Irritate, Patronize, Stress And Lose Customers; Open Solutions

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Elton John's Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy:

Open Solutions Inc. has announced that Pacific Coast Bankers' Bank, with $473 million in assets, has selected its enterprise-wide data processing platform, The Complete Banking Solution, and other Open Solutions' complementary applications.

The second largest bankers' bank in the United States in terms of assets under management, PCBB provides correspondent banking services to more than 400 independent community banks across the country.

Open Solutions sells integrated enabling technologies for financial institutions in the United States, Canada and internationally. In September 2005, Open Solutions announced an agreement with PCBB to offer PCBB customers its image item processing services as a complement to PCBB's cash letter settlement service.

Tom Evans, president and CEO of PCBB, said his company's primary focus was "finding an open architecture application that would allow the CBC to interface in a dynamic environment." They were also looking for a core platform "that could change as we grow, not only in assets but also in customers, products and services. We evaluated numerous vendors and focused on identifying the best solution to interface our in-house applications with the core database."

In addition to The Complete Banking Solution, PCBB will implement Open Solutions' Financial Accounting Suite -- general ledger, accounts payable and fixed assets -- and cView MyVision and Report Wizard.

Evans said the cView report writer would be used to create custom reports from many different applications including the core processor, CBC and others.

The ongoing Orbitz live CRM case study has been completed, and I'm sorry to report that through some of the worst customer service I've ever experienced, they've destroyed whatever possibilities for customer loyalty may have existed with us.

Basically, my family of five is flying from Istanbul to Washington, D.C. round-trip for Thanksgiving. We went online to look for tickets, and we'd had good experiences, both in price and customer service, with both Expedia and Travelocity, so we figured Orbitz was kind of like those guys.

We booked tickets, and went on Orbitz's site to pick out the seats, a feature they offer which we like.  It's booked through Alitalia but a few legs are operated by Delta, we have Istanbul-Milan, Milan-Boston, Boston-Washington going, and Washington-Atlanta, Atlanta-Milan, Milan-Istanbul coming. We filled in seat requests for all six flights, Orbitz charged our card for just north of $3,100, we figured the matter closed.

Then we noticed that the seats for the Washington-Atlanta and Atlanta-Milan legs were "pending," not confirmed. We sent an e-mail to the Orbitz customer service address promising "We try to answer all queries in three hours," or something like that, saying hey, what's going on here, we've paid and these seats are unconfirmed? Visions of being stranded at the D.C. airport danced through our heads.

My wife wrote to them and I did too.

Let's review: In CRM, the first priority is to make a good first impression on a customer. Orbitz failed there. Not the end of the world -- as I wrote on the first installment, the problem isn't the problem. How you handle the problem is much more important.

Customer loyalty is frequently won for good in the resolution of a problem. It's like a relationship that hasn't had any fights: You don't know what'll happen when a real problem comes up. When you have a fight and get over it you have a stronger relationship, right? Same with customers.

Look, nobody's going to provide perfect service. Not Orbitz, not Southwest, Nordstrom's,, Ritz-Carlton, Rolls-Royce, nobody. We customers don't expect perfect customer service. We expect problems to be handled the right way, and we'll give an amazing amount of loyalty to a company who does so.

So Orbitz's response to our problem was… no response. Not even an autoresponder saying "We've received your e-mail." We sent another e-mail saying look, we're getting concerned that we've paid you and we can't get seats confirmed on these two flights. Orbitz couldn't be bothered to answer that one either. Not a concern, evidently, they had their $3,100, what did they care about our personal problems?

So yesterday I sent them a fourth e-mail telling them I'd contacted our credit card bank and was requesting them to cancel the payment and that we'd rebook with someone else.

And I did, that wasn't an empty threat. I sent an e-mail to my bank instructing them to do that. And -- this is the honest 100% truth -- three or four minutes later I got a phone text message from my wife saying "Seats confirmed on all flights."

I called her back and it turns out this thing about Orbitz not giving us confirmed seats was stressing her out to the point where she took time off work to go to the Delta office here in Istanbul and personally get the confirmations. Oh, and Orbitz finally decided we were worth their precious time. Got an e-mail:

"Dear Orbitz Customer, Thank you for contacting Orbitz. In reviewing our contact history, I show that this is your first correspondence via e-mail and phone under the e-mail address ''. It is possible that you may have corresponded using another e-mail address."

Well, bull, seeing as how I had sent that e-mail using the exact same system we'd used to send the first three. CRM Rule #1: Lying to your customers isn't a good move.

"In reviewing our reservation system, I show that the online seat assignment for the flight segment 'Istanbul to Milan' on Alitalia 707 and flight segment 'Milan to Istanbul' on Alitalia 706  has been restricted by the airlines."

Gee, thanks for telling us that when we tried to use your system for getting seat assignments on the site. And for not telling us that the first three times we asked.

"Please note that most airlines hold some seats for airport check-in only. However, you can be assured that you will always get your seat assignment at the gate or check-in counter on the day of departure.

Sorry, but seeing that Orbitz is perfectly willing to lie to me I don't take much faith in their reassurances that if I just trust them I'll get my seat assignments.

I wrote back saying they were damn lucky my wife wasted a day doing their legwork for them, and that the seat assignment confirmations were easily enough obtained from Delta since she had just gotten them, and their aside that our seats were probably just being held for airport check-in only was sheer misdirection. See CRM Rule #1 above.

Then we got another e-mail from them saying they had, for reasons known only to God, reassigned the seats we'd chosen -- which were confirmed by the airline and weren't ever disputed -- on the Boston-Washington leg. We hadn't asked them to do that, it was never the problem. But I guess they have to punish mouthy customers somehow.

They they wrote "also, Alitalia Airlines does not have online seat selection capabilities. This means that only the airline is able to assign these seats. We are also unable to view the seat map of the flight type… the airline will be assigning you these seats and you will see your seat assignments at the airport on the date of departure."

Well, look, stupid, Alitalia isn't operating the flights in question, that's why my wife went to the DELTA office, wasting time doing the work we had paid you to do, where she picked up the confirmations you claimed didn't exist.

So there's your CRM case study: How to Insult, Irritate, Patronize, Stress And Lose Customers, by Orbitz. Honestly. It makes me quiver that I ever entrusted my travel to them in the first place.

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