Expedia: A Case in Customer Crisis

Our society is not without its nastier aspects. People aren’t always nice or polite to each other. Some people have a hard time empathizing with someone else’s pain or treating them the way they’d like to be treated themselves. But when one of these individuals works in your contact center, the danger to your business could be significant.

Case in point is the news this week about Expedia.com’s employee who lashed out at a customer. The customer, Cara Viramontes, had originally contacted Expedia about unexpected charges from the travel booking site. Later, she filed a mild complaint in an online survey from Expedia about her experience.

“I said, ‘You know what, the lady wasn’t helpful,’” explained Viramontes to a CBS Los Angeles reporter.

Shortly thereafter, Viramontes received the vulgar email from Expedia that read: “F— You.”

To add injury to insult, her family’s travel plans were cancelled without her authorization. Yet, her service nightmare still had some mileage. When she called customer service to report these latest issues, Viramontes says she was accused of cancelling her own reservation.

Viramontes, the California mother of an 8-month-old, then took to social media—crowdsourcing for ideas on how to handle the situation.

Once Expedia became aware of the problem, the company offered to rebook her flight at no cost, along with a $500 voucher.

These are minor costs to Expedia as far as dollars go, but the bigger worry for the travel company and other businesses represented by front line staff is how to avoid having individuals with such poor behaviors land in positions where they can abuse customers this way. Here’s what Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted: “Sometimes when you give individuals the power to do right by customers, they do wrong. We will make it right for Cara.”

This egregious example reinforces the importance of carefully screening candidates and supporting your team with real-time coaching and training, to avoid disaster.

If an incident like this one with Expedia were ever to occur, be ready to make amends to the injured party, and to quickly respond to social media posts. Many companies track social media continuously to fend off false accusations and mitigate effects of real ones—never mind to maintain a presence for building customer engagement and loyalty. Never forget that your brand must be cherished; protect it with due diligence or suffer the consequences in damages to your business.

Expedia is sure to take a good look at its employee hiring and training practices following this event. Likely, this is a good idea for all contact center leaders to consider. Remember to keep the lines of communication open with your employees and ensure your company culture supports them in performing their jobs according to policy.