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Vayama Hell , Social & CRM

May 9, 2011

It’s how we say it in Social Media, no?

I just had a very bad experience with Vayama, the online travel agency.

Nothing personal, we, consumers, all have this kind of horror stories from time to time. But this is so typical of how companies “embrace social media” that it is worth documenting the learnings here.

In a nutshell (that accounts for 5 hours of my time and kept me literally up for two nights)

1) I purchased a ticket on their web site (price is usually very good), 2) They charged me twice the price on my credit card 3) It took me hours and 6 calls to their offshore call center and still they were unable to fix it 4) I had to walk to their office in Mountain View CA to have someone take care of my problem.

And in the process, I found out that:

  • although they asked me to  send a copy of my bank statement tho their customer support email address, their call center people did not have access to this email account.
  • although they had my address, they called me at 5:30 in the morning to inquire whether I bought a ticket from them – didn’t know that already?
  • they couldn’t do a refund even so they acknowledged they invoiced by mistake.

On the other hand, they have a nice Facebook page and 4 Twitter accounts.


The end of the story was that M. at the Vayama Office (W El Camino Real #204, Mountain View, CA) fixed my problem and apologized. She did deliver superior customer support.

But this unfortunate event raises in my mind major questions around Social Media and Customer Service/ Social CRM.

What the heck is Social CRM if the contact with the company is outsourced? How can the brand build trust & social relations if every time you call you get helped by a different person? If you can’t even know the name or the number of the person you are speaking to or send a direct email or a tweet to the employee who is supposed to help you?

When I entered the Vayama office, the first thing I was told was “we are not supposed to talk to customers here, we don’t really know how to deal with this”.. yet it is exactly what they did. Not Vayama but M., their employee.

Social Media’s promise is to enable brands to engage with customers, mainly through their employees.  So let’s go back to basics and spell a few rules:

  • Social CRM is not compatible with offshoring
  • Social CRM cannot be delivered by anonymous employees
  • Social CRM cannot be delivered by employees that customers can’t reach
  • Social CRM cannot be delivered by employees who are not empowered to fix customer problems
  • Social CRM cannot be delivered by employees who are paid and measured by how many minutes they spend with the customer

Then come the cost argument. In this industry, can companies really move away from “low cost support” to building relations with their client and move the time spent talking to their clients from an expense to an asset ?

What’s your opinion?

@dominiq

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2011 1:58 pm

    Wow – your argument is way off base (my opinion, of course). You’re making a significant – and unsubstantiated argument that offshoring is the equivalent of abdication of responsibility for Social CRM. This is definitely not the case.

    Social CRM is as much a “response strategy” as it is a channel and method of engagement with customers. Bad content, or an ill-conceived plan and execution strategy will produce bad results, regardless of where people physically sit when they respond.

    Your experience and “back to basics” conclusions have very little to do with Social CRM, and everything to do with poor business execution. A leader in the company is responsible for defining strategy, operational processes, and execution of that strategy.

    Don’t confuse the issues with the channels.

  2. Daniel I. Shostak permalink
    May 9, 2011 3:44 pm

    Dominique:

    Your bullets are absolutely correct from a customer service point of view.

    For medium to large size entreprises, it may be important to divy up elements of social crm and social media. That is a Facebook project may be sent to a contractor, but they need to know the customer service process. Marketing may have internal and external sm producers, but they all need to know the customer service process.

    I think the primary point, and you raised it, is that customer service/social crm needs to be in the toolset of every outwardly facing element of the organization.

  3. Ali permalink
    October 14, 2011 3:26 am

    Please do not deal with Vayama the did charge me twice ! and they don’t know how to deal with people they are absolutely horrible agent !

  4. abe adler permalink
    January 1, 2012 9:44 am

    I think Vayama is just a horrible company and your interaction with them just reflects that. We had to cancel our flight and were told that our tickets are non-refundable. When I asked told them that was not specified when I bought the ticket–they said well sometimes tickets are refundable and sometimes they are not it depends on what the Airline eventually tells them (subsequently the airline told me the exact opposite)–so even tough they don’t specify when you buy the ticket they sure as hell specify when you try to get a refund. The few shekels you save by buying from them is NOT worth it-satay FAR FAR away

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