April 21, 2015

When Customer Service Fails Badly @Schiphol

No, I am not sufficiently informed, sorry, Schiphol!
When bad things happen, my very optimistic side immediate compensates by telling me that there MUST be a lesson to be learned here.
That lesson is not always obvious, as in this case.

Mom's Phone is Lost!
It was sad but true that last week, coming into Schiphol airport, late Monday evening, my mother accidentally left her mobile phone in the bathroom just in front of passport control.

Also true that she didn't realize it was missing until we were out of the airport, and at my house, and not until she was about to fall asleep, which did prevent her from falling asleep, but did not seem urgent enough to warrant waking me up. The next morning, when I asked my mom how she had slept, (she was visiting me and sleeping in the spare room, which I'm sure is less comfortable than her own bed at home), she informed me quite calmly that she couldn't find her phone.

Seeing as I leave my telephone all over the house, and regularly 'lose' it - I was not overly concerned at first. We searched the regular places, our suitcases, extra duty free bags, etc. The level of anxiety began to rise somewhat, but seeing as my mother is not as addicted as I am to her phone, nor as addicted as my 18 year old daughter, we first had our breakfast, and then began to discuss it again. At this point, my teenage daughter yelled down to us from the darkness of her bedroom:

Mom's phone is found! (Almost)
"Read the Gran chat, Mom!"
"What?" (I don't hear well from behind walls, and floors).
"It's been found!"
"Grandma's phone."

I quickly picked up my own phone and checked out our family chat on Whatsapp, the "Gran chat."

A shower of relief spread through me, and I showed my mom the text.

"Great news!"
"Wow, people here are so honest," my mom replied.
"Yup," I said, proud to finally defend the Dutch people, the country I have taken as my 'home' for the past 14 years.
"So, where is the Lost and Found?" mom asked.

Ah! A simple enough question, one might think.
Think again.

Let's go get it!
This is where the story gets very complicated.  So far, I've done my best to simplify it. It is, after all, a simple question of "I lost it," "It was found," "Go pick it up." Right? Wrong.

My mom was going to go home the next day, so it was crucial for her to get her phone back before then. We had a whole 24 hours to contact Lost and Found, go to the airport (a 15 minute drive from my house in Amstelveen). Easy peasy, you might say?
However, you saw the email at the beginning of this post, right? That was from today - the 21st of April. The chat message was from last week, the 14th of April. So, did we get the phone or not?

Here is the chain of events:
1. Monday (April 13th) we flew into Schiphol from London and left the phone in the bathroom.

2. Tuesday morning (April 14th) at 4:00 a.m. it was found and brought to a person named Robin Dutch Immigration/Police at the airport. Robin contacted my sister via my mother's whatsapp on her telephone - and said he would give it to the Lost and Found. That was a smart move, Robin!

3. Tuesday morning at about 10:00 a.m. we contacted Schiphol Lost and Found, via a form on their website, as there was no direct phone number for Lost and Found.

4. After receiving a standard email answer that it would take them 7 days to get back to us, we initiated phone contact to Schiphol Service Dept. (Remember, my mom was leaving the next day, so we didn't want to wait 7 days to get what we already knew had been found!).

5. We were told that my mom's phone was not 'yet' in the Lost and Found and no, we could not come to the airport to try to identify it ourselves, we must wait for an email from the Lost and Found. (Just wondering - how many readers can actually live and breathe without mobile phone access for more than a few hours?).

6. Tuesday (the 14th still), we were on the phone off and on all day, to no avail. Customer service ranged from polite to irritated. The answer was invariably 'We cannot help you until the object is identified by Lost and Found.' and 'No, you may not come to the airport to look for it yourself.'

7. I started using my twitter account: @studyleaks to contact customer service, thinking that the public nature of it would speed up finding a solution. After all - the phone HAD been found. It wasn't really lost! We were contacted back quickly via Twitter, but again - no solution was found.

8. Tuesday night we went to bed without retrieving the phone. My mother's flight was at 13:00 the next day, Wednesday, April 15th, and we were determined the get the phone back before she left. We knew it was at the airport. We knew Robin had 'touched' it, and, after all - how many Robins worked the night shift at Immigration? "We have 1300 employees in Immigration and Police working at Schiphol," we were told. We cannot possibly find Robin."

9. Wednesday morning we woke up and called Schiphol again. This time, we got Diederik. He was more than sympathetic, and yes, he had heard 'our story' already from his colleagues. He put me on hold for quite some time, and when he finally came back on - he said two wonderful things: 1." I am sorry for keeping you on hold for so long." 2. "We have located your phone - it's at the Information Desk in Terminal 2. You can pick it up now."Thank you Diederik!

10. We went to Schiphol and picked up the phone: See pic!

Happy end!
So, here's the positive to all of this:
The customer service dept at Schiphol does answer their inquiries within 7 days (exactly!). Sadly, they don't always get their answers correct.

It seems that only if you really really want to get something, you can. So, I have again reinforced the fact that determination, assertiveness and actively pursuing my goals does pay off in the end.

One final positive note - I work as a corporate coach, always open to new opportunities. To me, it seems like the Schiphol Service Dept. could use a tweak!

Why not contact me for some assistance in honing your internal communication skills? audrey@synquity.com  - www.synquity.com

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