For some background, I work for a travel agency based in Germany. They’re popular for tours, activities and excursions.
It’s pretty common for us to have a cancellation policy that allows you to cancel or reschedule at least 24 prior to the start of your tour/activity and still get the refund, after all, these are the actual policies of the providers for the tours/activities.
There also are exceptions to the cancel policy like double booking mistakes, hospitalizations or death, force majeure, stuff like that.
Our biggest market is towards European countries and since the cancellation policy is pretty standard, they’d make no issue about it.
What can’t be cancelled, cant be cancelled and they’d just accept the fact that they cant get a refund IF THE REASON WAS YOUR OWN NEGLIGENCE.
Our most common channel to reach out to us is via email, followed by chat, and then calls.
Our handling time for emails is 15 minutes because its the most common. For calls, since its uncommon, the handling time is 6 minutes.
Our most common issue for people to actually call in is when they’re trying online self-service features that don’t seem to work, then we’d escalate this right away to the relevant departments, and they’ll be contacted by the departments directly, no need to get back to us or my department.
As these are the most common reasons people call in, you can understand why the handling time is only 6 minutes as these can usually be done in 4 minutes. Also, there is no standard call flow, you just gotta be friendly and understand the concern.
Now, here’s what’s awesome, our company gives us access to listen to all our calls through our phone software and I’m listening to the call as I type.
M: opening spiel
C: Hey I need you to cancel my class because I can’t come in, thanks. I’ll need the refund to return by tonight
M: I’ll look into it. I’ll need to get your booking reference, verify some security questions for me to proceed with your request.
C: What do you mean? It’s literally me. I’m the only one who calls for my booking.
She eventually provides me the info needed, the call is now 3 minutes and 40 seconds long. Usually, this part would take me 2 minutes but I don’t mind sacrificing a slightly longer call if it meant resolving the concern.
C: What else do you need? My location? Iowa. My babe’s name? Jeremiah. My mom? Lusha (i dunno if it’s spelled that way lol) My father? Long gone
I do not have any idea as to what her thought process is and decided to speak that way. (God please help her)
I pulled up the booking, recap the booking info and provided the cancellation policy to her.
Some info about the booking:
Booked last April, it’s in Florence, Italy, starts tomorrow and she called in 16 hours prior to the start time. (Stay with me, it’s relevant later)
Now obviously because it could not be cancelled, we explain why it could not be cancelled and that we’d look for exceptions if we can get the reason for them to cancel.
So I asked her the reason why they could not make it.
C: What do you mean why? I just can’t make it. Cant you think? Im in Iowa and it would take me at least 20 hours to get there from here of course I can’t make it. What’s wrong with you? Have you ever travelled before?
(She’s yelling at this point)
The call is about 6 minutes now. (In normal calls, this should be nearing the end)
M: Im truly sorry if you wouldn’t be able to join the experience but I hope the cancellation policy is clear, like stated in your vouchers and email confirmation. If there’s anything I can do, then it’s to ask your activity provider if they can reschedule you.
C: No I can’t reschedule because I’m not there and won’t be there and will never be there so I need you to click that button on your screen that says cancel and tell my bank to refund it right away.
M: Can I ask if you were the one who planned to book this or was this an unauthorized charge or booking ?
(I’m already speechless at this point because I truly do not understand why they’d book it in the first place)
C: Yes I’m the one who booked that! Who else would it be? I just need you to cancel it, how hard can it be?!
M: I understand there might be some setbacks to your plans of travelling to Italy and taking this class but unfortunately, this really is the cancellation policy and in order to save the booking’s value, I may be able to ask your activity provider if they’ll still reschedule you.
C: No no you don’t understand me. I AM NOT THERE!
Call is about 10 minutes now, team lead already tapped on me to check why it’s taking so long.
M: I know a refund is what you want and I totally get it, but please understand that these are the policies of the booking that you agreed to once you confirmed it and if there is anything I could do to extend my help, it’s the reschedule option, other than that, the policy applies.
C: Hey are you dumb or something? You don’t understand me and you’re not understanding me. All you have to do is cancel and refund it because I’m not there.
We went back and forth between her saying “but, im not there” and me explaining the policy and what other options they’d have.
Call ended at 21 minutes, as she yelled about my company, colleagues I work with, my ‘fake’ accent and that all we do is sit on our desks all day not helping.
To tell you honestly, I have no idea why I’m in this industry and why I chose hell for myself.
21 minutes is a big red mark on our scorecard and if we don’t pass our scorecard, we can get terminated.
Please understand that we’re just employees too, and we actually do care about you and wanna help you, if it’s only within our power.
TL DR: Insisting on a refund because of your irresponsible travel planning can get some people fired