Most of the project failures described in this blog are BIG: huge projects, global system integrators, and so on. This case study shows that even the smallest companies are not immune to software stupidity, with negative impact on customers. However, this story is unusual in one important regard: the offending company recognized the problem and fixed it!
So, in a change of pace for this blog, let’s discuss airport shuttle services. Stewart Alsop describes how a shuttle service (mis-)used technology and pissed off a customer.
Santa Fe Shuttle provides service from Albuquerque airport to a variety of local destinations. Their website allows users to make a general reservation, without specifying the particular shuttle to which the reservation applied. Stewart arrived at the airport, naively believing that he had a confirmed reservation on the next shuttle. [Editorial note: why a sophisticated and knowledgeable user would believe that is beyond me, but that’s another story…] Of course, the company did not have him booked, so he wanted a refund of his prepaid $23. No go — won’t happen.
In Stewart’s words:
I’m not on the list for the next shuttle. So I call the office and tell the reservation agent I want to cancel and get my money back. She says she can’t do that. I ask why: “I just can’t do that.” I again ask why they can’t refund my money for a service they haven’t provided. She says I can wait and get on the next shuttle so that they will provide the service. I tell her that the reservation on the web site never confirmed a schedule and now I want to cancel. She laughed and asked me why I made the reservation without knowing the schedule. I asked her: “Did you just laugh at me?” She laughed some more and said, “You really trusted the web site to work?”
UPDATE: Immediately after this was posted on Stewart’s blog, the Santa Fe Shuttle website went down. Today, it’s back up and guess what? The reservation page lets you choose a particular shuttle time!
Regardless of business size, poor management decisions related to technology can alienate valuable customers. Kudos to Santa Fe Shuttle for fixing the problem — perhaps they have even refunded the $23.