In a recent post, Toronto Mike posted an open letter from a disgruntled TTC customer. The customer had a terrible experience riding the TTC on a recent Sunday in August. The ‘troubled TTC user’ began the letter by noting that TTC users “pay about 1.5 times more than other North American cities.” This got me wondering. Does it really matter how much more or less we pay than services in other cities that are arguably better or worse?
Should the relative higher price, that this customer states is paid, entitle TTC users to better customer service. I have reflected on my past experiences with McDonald’s vs. Canyon Creek, Ontario Parks vs. Marriot hotels, Ford vs. Lexus, the Florida Panthers vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs. How about Amazon.com vs Zappos.com. The amount you pay for the service (or product) should not determine the level customer service you receive.
The service was miles apart with Lexus providing incredible service while Ford’s provided no value. Maybe not a surprise to anyone who has owned either of these brands. The service at Canyon Creek is good, McDonald’s is average, which is perhaps not shocking. Considering the price difference, do you have a bigger expectation from Canyon Creek?
Ontario Parks is a better experience than Marriot. Considering the price difference is about 6 times, would you expect more from Marriot? The Florida Panthers certainly provide a better experience than the Leafs even though they have (arguably) equally weak products. There is a difference in price however of 6 – 7 times. If something goes wrong, Zappos is a superior experience over Amazon 9 times out of 10.
Have we come to expect that paying more equates to better service? I think that great customer experience has a bigger impact and provides better momentum with a product or service of comparative lesser value.
In the case of this poor TTC experience, the collector blamed a customer, there was no clear announcement and there was a promise by the collector that shuttle buses would be provided. During the subway train failure, you don’t necessarily need to wow customers, but you need to at least keep them neutral. It all boils down to communication. The TTC needed to make a clear and timely announcement. Once they made that announcement, they needed to follow through on their commitment.
While it’s good that Mr. Upfold (Chief Customer Service Officer for the TTC) responded to the letter, and committed to improvement, it’s his job. His communications will come after the event and the TTC has already let down its customers.
Certainly my 20 years of TTC travels brought some unpredictable and uncomfortable situations, but in each case the positive or negative experience came from how the TTC official communicated and handled the situation. Any apologies or commitments after the fact, had much less impact.
Companies and organizations owe us strong customer service regardless of the cost and they especially owe it to us when things go badly. With every bad situation comes an opportunity to wow the customer and it can be done in real time.
Readers: What does the TTC owe it’s customers? How could this situation have been improved at any step?
In a future post I’ll provide my thoughts on then recently famous “Morton’s Steakhouse Customer Service Story.” A bad experience doesn’t have to come from the company that turns the story around.