It's not often that I air my dirty laundry online, but a recent experience with Expedia.ca and Staybridge Suites had me run the gamut of the customer service experience that I thought was worth sharing.

The issue: I had booked a trip with Expedia.ca online and simply wanted to change the type of hotel room from a studio with a king bed to one with two double beds. Seemed simple enough right? And because my room was non-refundable, I expected the customer service rep (CSR) to let me know if it wasn't possible. After a bit of a difficult conversation (the CSR was very difficult to understand), it appeared that the change had been made....until I checked my bill and realized they had charged me twice - once for the original reservation and again for the new reservation.

The bad
It seemed that the Expedia rep either made a mistake or didn't understand my request. I spent from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the phone attempting to resolve the issue (most of the time on hold).

The ugly
I was escalated twice through Expedia's customer service ranks. At each level, I got more irritated. I was lectured on my patience by the second level manager. The 'final' manager, a woman named Monica Woods, simply told me there was nothing that could be done and that the hotel was unwilling to issue a refund. So, a mistake made by Expedia, would mean that I would have to pay essentially double for a hotel room for five nights in New Orleans.

The good
I called the hotel directly. After listening and understanding my story (the fact that I was planning to stay in the same hotel, for the same number of days and all of a sudden was being charged twice), the lady at the front desk 'Danielle' told me she would talk to Expedia directly and take care of it. Once everything was resolved, she took the time to look up my contact information and call me back at home to ensure I was satisfied with the result. Let me just say that Danielle will get a thank you gift from me when I get to New Orleans.

What was clear to me was there were two very different customer experience cultures and scenarios in place with these two organizations.

Expedia reps and managers were taught the rules and seemed to have no accountability. It didn't matter that the mistake was theirs (a fact acknowledged by the manager, the Staybridge clerk, and my final Expedia CSR), the customer simply would have to pay.

Staybridge Suites, on the other hand, provided the front desk clerk with some autonomy and a focus on satisfying the customer. Danielle listened and understood my dilemma. She quickly figured out that the Expedia CSR had made a mistake and should have processed a simple change order. Because of that, and because I was to be a guest in her hotel, it was a simple decision to process the refund. Above and beyond was when she asked the Expedia CSR rep to call her directly and then called me later that night to ensure I was satisfied with the solution.

As communicators and HR professionals, we need to think about our role in creating a great customer experience. How do we help bring the brand promise to life through every day interactions? For those who haven't watched yet, I'd recommend watching Shel Holtz' Circle of Fellows broadcast on the Communicator's role in customer experience.

My experience means I'll hesitate to use Expedia to book travel in the future (which is too bad since I had recently decided to switch to the online booking system) and will have me increase my loyalty to the IHG brand of hotels.

Do you have a customer experience - good, bad, or ugly - to share? Even better, do you have an example where communication helped support the customer experience?

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