Last night I tried to book two rooms online for the start of our holiday in March. The first couple of attempts on the PC failed at a blank, hanging page. I tried on the netbook on a different browser thinking that was the problem – got to a different blank hanging page. I tried on my phone. This was almost a success – I got as far as paying with PayPal but the final screen threw a ‘This page is not supported at the moment’ message. Whatever that means.
I checked my email accounts but there was no receipt from PayPal and no booking confirmation from Travelodge. I gave up for the night.
This morning, after searching with a magnifying glass I finally found a phone number for the hotel to check if they had a reservation. Before anyone answered there was a recorded message telling me that the hotel couldn’t take phone bookings and that there were deals to be had on their simple-to-use website. I got to speak to a lovely human who checked the system and no, they had no booking.
On a break I tried my PC at work on Firefox and IE – neither worked. I looked in the Contacting us section for an email address and found an online chat facility. Before that would launch there were two very vague questions to answer with very specific answers in a drop down menu, none of which fitted my query. I tired to answer as best I could but the algorithms decided that the online chat wasn’t suitable for my enquiry. I gave up.
At lunch time I went to a different office to try Safari on a Mac. I still got a blank hanging page. I went straight to the online chat facility and lied just so I could chat online. I was put in a queue but with no indication where I was in it. After five minutes it booted me out and told me they had no operators available.
Then I found the FAQs and there was one specifically for ‘Why am I unable to complete my booking?’ Here’s their answer:
We would suggest that you do not keep trying to make a reservation if your booking fails at the payment stage as this could lead to monies being ring fenced from your account.
We are aware that, during busy times on our website (i.e. during a sale), we can experience higher volume of visitors. This can have an impact on the speed of the booking process and sometimes, particularly during the confirmation or payment process, causing the page to timeout or go blank. Before pressing back on your browser and trying again, it’s important to check that your booking wasn’t processed successfully by checking the ‘view/modify my booking’ link using your booking criteria, or by checking the email address you used at the time of booking to see whether you have received a confirmation email.
We are also aware that payment for reservations can fail if special characters such as (commas, apostrophes, underscores and accents) appear in the booking information within the name and address fields and also if the telephone number is missing as this field is mandatory.
So basically their shoddy customer journey may have resulted in loads of money being set aside from my account (if that’s what ring fenced means). Oh, and their site can’t cope with a high volume of traffic. Oh, and it’s up to me to check if the booking was processed or not, even although their site makes it look as though it hasn’t. And by the way, my dodgy typing may be to blame and I’ve to guess that my telephone number is mandatory, even although there’s nothing on the form to tell me it is. Plain English doesn’t even get a look in.
On further digging I found the ‘How can I telephone Travelodge’ and found this nugget:
To provide a service that allows us to fully investigate your query, and to continue to keep our rates low, we ask our customers to use our contact us section on our website or via letter.
I’d just also like to share some of their page stats with you.
Do these not tell them that there’s something far wrong with their online booking system and website in general? If they don’t want to hire Gerry I’d be more than willing to point out where they’re going wrong – I’d even do some customer journey mapping with them if they don’t believe me.
Oh, and I’ve booked us into the Holiday Inn up the road. Managed it first time and it was £14 cheaper!
On other news, I was asked to do some taste testing tonight for Airlie Fairley cakes. Neither May nor her hubby are huge fans of coffee so it was down to me to road test her new coffee cupcakes. It was spot-on and not only that she brought a lemon one and two After Eight cupcakes too. Bang goes the diet!
Today I have learned:
- the customer is king (I’ve known this for a while but it’s worth remembering)
- it’s easy to take your custom elsewhere in the private sector
- in the public sector it’s even more important to make the customer king because if they can’t go anywhere else they might not bother at all
Simple lamb dhansak
sunflower oil for frying
2 tbsp garam masala
500g gigot, cubed
2 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
the top half of a butternut squash, peeled and cubed
100g red lentils
500mls veg stock
1 tbsp tikka paste
2 tsp tamarind paste
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp coriander, chopped
juice of a lemon
Method: Put the garam masala and the lamb in a large freezer bag and shake till the lamb’s covered. Heat the oil in a large pan, brown the lamb in batches and set aside on a plate.
Cook the onions, garlic and squash till golden then add the lentils, stock, tikka and tamarind pastes, sugar and lamb to the pan. Bring to the boil and simmer covered for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Check the seasoning then add the coriander and lemon juice.
Serve with the Perfect Every Time Rice and naan.