It's unfortunate that what often drives me to write is the bad experience; good design (and customer experience) is relatively invisible, bad experiences leap out.
So it is today for Accor Hotels.
A brief background. I've been a member of their rewards program for a couple of years now. You pay an amount to join each year, and you get one free nights stay in return, to use throughout the year. Last year I was a bit busy and didn't use it. With Christmas approaching I'd planned on a night away with my wife, somewhere mid December.
Unfortunately my father-in-law fell ill early in December and was extremely unwell in hospital. As the month progressed he seemed to get better, but unfortunately passed away. In the middle of this I received a call from the Accor Hotels rewards program to speak about renewing.
The customer service rep who called me was obviously understanding, and quickly hung up after offering condolences. No problem.
However I'm now trying to sort out renewal, and I have a question. Had I renewed instantly my free night could have been carried over into this year, since my membership lapsed for a few weeks it is technically lost; but given the circumstances I just wanted to ask someone there if there was any chance they could roll it over anyway.
And that's where the awesome user experience kicks in.
And it's the classic; an organisation that wants to reduce the overload of customer support, but making it near impossible to actually contact them.
Logging into my account I found a new design that was almost entirely focussed on sales. Offers, options and booking links are everywhere. But there were links to manage my account, so I started there first. Unfortunately, to no avail - my account listed my personal details, gave me options to sign up for different cards, but had nothing to help.
There is no phone number visible anywhere I can see.
Okay, by this point I'm getting a little frustrated, but surely there's contact information in there somewhere.
So I head to the Support space - which is dominated with my favourite content, FAQs. I can search the FAQs, I can click into categories of FAQs, I can scroll through FAQs as much as I want. Great.
Having completely failed to find the FAQ titled "A family member just died and I missed my payment - can I roll over my rewards night anyway?" I did find a Contact us link at the bottom of the page. This offered me a list of choices - Contact us by Email. Great list. I would much rather talk to someone, but since email is the only show in town, fine.
This option asks me to select a main reason to contact them. I select the rewards program. It then offers me 11 sub-reasons to choose from, none of which have any relevance to me, and none of which relate to membership - which is bizarre given that I've just selected the rewards program. But since one of them is 'Other', I try that.
This now asks me to enter my membership number (my personal details are thankfully defaulted in) and to write, which I now do - foolishly thinking I've hit the jackpot.
I explain the reason for my contact and - learned from past such experiences - copy the text, in case the form fails. I hit the button - and the page scrolls up slightly. What???
I hit the button again, and again the page scrolls up slightly.
I then proceed to try various combinations of information, just in case I've hit some bizarre error. Is there a mandatory field I've missed? Nope, everything's filled out. Is my text maybe too long? Nope, shorter text doesn't work. I try various other contact reasons, I try different subjects - but every time, I get a small scroll instead of a form submission.
By this stage I'm seriously peeved and thinking why the hell am I chasing these guys to give them my membership money and my business. In the end I have to settle for a shot across the Twitter bows, as the twitter account is the only contact information other than Facebook I can find.
Let me be very clear. I am not complaining about losing the hotel night. That was my bad, and if Accor told me they couldn't keep it I would have continued this year anyway, I just wanted to ask before I signed. It's not the night that counts - it's the fact that they made it practically impossible to ask them about it.
If you want to upset your customers, ignore them. Make them jump through hoops needlessly and repeatedly to ask you basic questions, make them sweat if they want to buy from you. It's a winning strategy Accor Hotels, and I wish you every bit of luck with it.