Actually Vue –  it is nearly 2016. Auld Lang Syne will be ringing out in a matter of weeks and yet I am feeling so 2004.

Why? It is very rare to get to the point of turning frustration into a blog post, but at 9:50pm on a Sunday – things finally snapped. All due to my daughter wanting to see Star Wars with her family and grandmother.

The problem – two very small things that just drove me insane. Both linked to Vue Cinema’s online customer experience that simply beggars belief.

Firstly, there is the magical family ticket of infinite space. Having agreed time and location to watch the new Star Wars film, I went online to book tickets. I initially selected 2 x adult and 2 x children’s tickets for the princely sum of £68.56, but then noticed that Vue actually offers a nifty 1 x family ticket for only £59.96 – nearly £9 less than the individually priced tickets.

All good you may hear. All good, that is, until we progress to the seat booking screen to discover that a 1 x family ticket means that we are only allowed to book 1 x seat. A coding error means that the system will only allow me to select one single seat for the family of four. Call me old fashioned but sitting two adults and two kids on one seat is a little bit too difficult – especially when popcorn and chocolates need to be eaten.

So accepting capitalism and discounts do not go hand in hand, I placed lower lip between top and bottom teeth, bit gently and decided to buy tickets individually at the full price. So, 2 x adult, 2 x child and (due to grandma’s visit), 1 x senior citizen. Five ticket in all. Highly priced, but highly sought after on the first weekend of the release of The Force Awakens.

Unfortunately, the rest of mankind had already made similar decisions and, as a result, I found myself with only three sets of three seats available in the whole of the cinema. Not wanting to miss my chance at grabbing our places, I selected a five-some with three seats in one row and two behind. I then pressed enter to find the following:

This site says… please ensure that you do not leave a single gap between seats.

Not “Dear Mr Customer, we are sorry to ask but you are not allowed to pick the seats you want because we need to maximise how much we earn.”

Or, “Dear client – sc$£w you.” I think at least I would have preferred this.

Honestly. “This site says I cannot chose the seats I want”. The only way I could book tickets for this showing would be to pick one row of three and then select individual seats in each of the other two rows – i.e. I must sit everyone in separate seats around the cinema but at least Vue will be able to maximise its rent.

Having an experience like this in 2015 (nearly 2016) from a company that is one of the best known brands in the UK does (as I said earlier) beggar belief. This is a basic requirement and something that should not be expected from a company like Vue. More worryingly, this is not a one-off glitch in the matrix. I had actually experienced the Family Ticket = one seat issue earlier this year, but being British, did not complain and just paid the excess. However, that was month’s ago and it has still not changed.

Businesses need to be far more proactive in how they work with their customers. There are too many companies that have focused on cost reduction rather than optimising the customer experience. The short-term benefits of concentrating on taking costs out, are generally outweighed by detrimental effects on longer term loyalty. Customers (like elephants) remember and tend to act with their feet if they feel that a company is putting profit first and them second.

Think about the experience that a customer has when they interact with the brand. Good experiences can ultimately lead to great advocacy and life time relationships. Bad ones – well – they tend to awaken a force that only Darth Vader can subdue.

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