How to get quality of service wrong

I needed to book three cinema tickets to see Skyfall last week.
Me and several million others.
It should be easy really.  We do live in the 21st century and I am reasonably tech savvy.
So, I  Google cinemas in Bath & find the Odeon & go online and book.
Or rather I don’t.
Their web booking system is astonishingly slow.  First you select the town from a drop-down menu.  Then you wait (literally) 2-3 mins, before you can click on the film.  You then wait another 2-3 mins before you can choose the date.  However, the date I wanted (6 days ahead) did not appear.
So, I thought, give up on the web & try a real person.  The only number to call is an 0871 number, which I would call only if the world was coming to an end, as the cost is such a rip-off.  Fortunately, one of my favourite websites (see ) not only had a landline number, but had the direct number for the cinema in Bath.  Success!
Well, to a degree.  Friday can only be booked when Tuesday comes around.  Ho hum.
So, on Tuesday, I do the same again (yawn yawn) and guess what – same again – the date does not appear.
So I have another chat with my new bff in Bath and am told it will probably be online later that day, or maybe the next.
Wednesday dawns and I try again (again again).
Or at least, until I need to enter my credit card details when the screen tells me there is a system error and I should call the 0871 number to tell them the error code.
Well, just in case, I try it all again, but the same happens again.
By now, I really want to tell Mr Odeon what I think of them.  Fortunately, the sayno…. website not only has an alternative number for the 0871 Customer Service number, but it’s an 0800 number (0800 808950 in case you ever want to talk to them).
Gritting my teeth, braced for the conversation, I dial the number.  A delightful sounding recorded lady tells me that I am 36th in the queue with an estimated wait time of 26 minutes.
Calmly, without damaging my phone in any way, I hang up.
I re-Google cinemas in Bath and find  .  Holding my breath, I go through the whole booking and payment process in under two minutes and pay £5.40 less than I would have paid Mr Odeon.
Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it, Mr Odeon??
Finally, I use the Odeon website contact form to tell them (a slightly shorter version of) this story.
And their response?  You guessed it – no response at all.
You’re probably shaking your head right now at the zero-star customer service.  So let me ask you a question – how good is your customer service?  And how do you know that?  Have you tried phoning your company, like a customer would?  Have you bought something on your own website?  Do you ask your customers what they think?  And what do you do if they didn’t enjoy their ‘customer journey’?
I wonder if the MD of Odeon will ever read this, and what he’ll think if he does.  And what he’ll do about it.  He’ll probably take precipitous action to put things right, because he (or indeed she) is a real person.  The trouble with poor customer service in such corporates is it’s so hard to get to a real person at a high enough level to be vaguely interested.
As a postscript, the Little Theatre Cinema in Bath is a delight.  It dates from the 1930’s but has state of the art sound and vision as well as very comfy seats.  It was a lovely place to be.  The customer service was first class.  I suppose I owe the Odeon a ‘thank you’ – if they hadn’t been so bad I might never have stumbled across their delightful competitor.  Where do you think I will go next time??
Best you make sure you don’t nudge your customers and prospects in the direction of your competitor!
Post script – I eventually got an email from the Odeon apologising for the problems which they’re trying to make sure do not happen again.  I also got an email from Little Theatre Cinema thanking me for the positive feedback & offering me two free tickets.  Which company do you think I feel more positive about??
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