Copy of letter sent this week says it all. Let's see if we get a response - based on experience so far, I doubt it:
Wednesday 28th November 2012
Re holiday booking ref: 3xxxxxx
In the name of [my parents]
I'm writing to you on behalf of my parents, named above. They're in Madeira right now, on the 2nd of 2 trips they saved up for this year to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
Upon booking the first trip - to Ibiza - they were assured by your in-branch rep that they'd get a fruit basket, champagne and an upgrade as a gesture for their special occasion.
Nothing doing. So they left it at that. They're nearly 70 - they don't like to make a fuss - they put it down to a misunderstanding.
At my encouragement, however, they mentioned the issue when booking this Madeira trip (booking reference at the top of this letter). The agent at the branch (Arnold, Nottingham) was 'mortified' and assured them that she'd fix it for them. They were excited at the gesture and looking forward to everything.
Four days before departure, my father popped in to confirm everything and your rep assured him that an email had gone on 12th November to the hotel and 'everything was confirmed'. You can imagine his surprise, therefore, when he and my mother arrived at the hotel to see 3 other couples who'd been on their flight get upgraded to celebrate their
(shorter than 50 years) anniversaries - and for my father? The response that no notification had been sent through so nothing could be done and they'd have to wait for the rep the next day.
My mother was very upset as I discovered when I called on their first night to ensure they were having a lovely time. So*I called your branch in Arnold, Nottingham where this holiday was booked and where, again, 4 days before departure, my father was reassured that these special things would be waiting for him. I spoke to a lady who looked up the booking and confirmed that - on 12th November - a request for these things had been sent to the hotel but she maintained there was nothing more the store could do. She couldn't (wouldn't?) call the hotel or fax through the screen shot of the email or call your local rep. She wouldn't even call head office. When I asked for a number to do that myself, she told me these wasn't one - that there's no way for customers to contact your HQ with issues. All she could give me was a number for agents and she 'couldn't guarantee they'll even speak to you because you're a customer'. Would she phone them then? No, there was nothing more she could do. When I called the number, a recording told me it was no longer operational. Fantastic service experience so far.
Meanwhile, back in Madeira, your rep arrived the next day with the same response - no message from the branch who'd sold the holiday = no anniversary treats. She did offer to write a report (yay! Very exciting for the anniversary celebrants) and to 'try' to arrange fruit
basket and wine. So what does that result in? A plate with 2 bananas, an apple and an orange and a mini bottle of sparkling wine. Nice but good enough? Not really. So disappointment again. Her other remark - admittedly delivered with a smile - ''Well, your anniversary date's passed now (it was whilst in Ibiza) so it doesn't really matter because it's too late'. What a delightful response.
No offer to connect to branch. Negotiate with hotel. To try to join the dots. In the meantime, having chatted to one of the lucky recipients of that elusive sea-view upgrade, my parents discover that the rooms on either side of them are empty. But hotel and rep alike say no rooms are free.
It's extraordinary to me that - whilst your online site, your high street stores and your reps work in perfect harmony to allow people to spend money with you - that synchronicity disappears almost immediately when it comes to resolving an issue or providing a
customer experience that's likely to generate positive word of mouth and repeat business.
I'm not operating under any illusion here. I highly doubt you'll read this, let alone respond to it. And I'm pretty certain you'll make no attempt to offer something to my parents by way of an apology or long-overdue celebration of their anniversary. So instead of waiting to hear back from you, I'm going to spend my time posting this story on travel-related social media sites so that other potential customers of yours can truly appreciate the special service touch offered by Thomson. Feel free to prove me wrong.