Thursday, December 25, 2008

Air Tran's argument clinic

I have recently been flying every other week on several different carriers and have had experiences that leave me flummoxed.

All of the actual flights I took were relatively pleasurable. Yes I know most flying experiences are mildly painful at best... remember I said RELATIVELY.

I flew on AirTran round trip to DFW.

Making the Reservation - Good.
Getting my tickets and seats - Good.
Flying - Good.

Applying my A+ rewards number... not so much.

Given that one of my co-workers made the reservation for me, my rewards number was not attached to the reservation. I talked with the ticketing agent. No dice. I called the 1-800 number. No dice.

Listed below in ascending order are the three things that were really frustrating for me:

1) Poor systems design - any person along the reservation and flight supply chain should be able to serve a passenger in common use cases. This is good multi-channel experience design.

2) Poor understanding of the human mind - who memorizes their A+ rewards number? I already have enough numbers in my brain and companies want to keep tossing more numbers at me when I have no space to keep them in my wallet, or facility to write them down. The only time I have to be on the phone with them is in the car, where I can't write. Good design requires basic understanding of your customer and their lifestyle.

3) Poor customer service philosophy - when I called the 1-800 number, the representative went into detail about why I was wrong to expect him or the ticketing agent to be able to attach my number to my reservation.

I highly doubt that he was trained to argue with customers, and when I asked him why he was arguing with me, I got the proverbial Monty Python response. Here are some responses I would deem as acceptable when my request goes beyond the boundaries of policy or system capability:

a) I'm sorry Mr. Fishman, our systems are not designed to do that.

b) I'm sorry Mr. Fishman, our policies won't allow me to do that.

c) I'm sorry Mr. Fishman, I'm not authorized to do that.

d) I'm sorry Mr. Fishman, I am unable to do that right at this time, however, I could take your information down and call you back when this is done.

e) Any of the above followed by: I'll mention it to my supervisor that I had a problem expediting a customer request.

Here are the two most common responses:

1) I can't do that. <- I hate this one with a passion. Can't means unable. What they actually mean in most of these situations is that my request is against policy or that they are individually are unwilling.

2) You need to call to do that. <- This one raises all the original problems listed above. The very simple and compelling aim is this: One face to the customer.

Separately, I flew Delta this week and while the Sky Cap applied my frequent flyer number (YAY! Woo-Hoo!). The customer service person had to give me another number to call to log a "lost and found" request that left me on hold for 20 minutes before I gave up (BOO! DOH!).

Official Rating:

Most airline's customer service experience design - Crap

Tip your servers well. I'll be here all weekend.


Kari said...

After reading this post and reading other posts about customer service, I think I will be telling csr that I am a pretty popular blogger and I will be letting the world know. Just for kicks and grins if nothing else!

I wonder if that would work!

furiousBall said...

i do agree that the majority of the problem is the system, but for whatever reason, i seem to always be catching a csr on their "bad day", either that or question number one on their employment application is "do you have a false sense of entitlement?"