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Fear of customer service can cost airlines more than just helping the passenger

Yesterday, I needed to make a change to an Easyjet flight I'm taking next week. No problem, go online, pay the difference, and it's done.

Only I was having a problem. It gave me the new flight but when it re-assigned me a speedy boarding seat, it gave me one that was already occupied.

So I got on live chat and two attempts and 30 minutes later I was told I had to call the airline. I'm in London so no problem.

I got on the phone and the person helping me, with a thick South African accent so it wasn't easy to understand him, did try his best. He kept putting me on hold to see how we could figure it out so I could re-book it online. Forty minutes later he said that after speaking to three different people they couldn't figure it out and would send me to the department that made phone bookings. Knowing this costs more, I asked about that and he said not to worry about it because it was their problem.

It took less than five minutes to make the change. If they had said right away, we'll change it, they would have saved the cost of three people over an hour time period.

Person A (Chat)--10 minutes before being disconnected
Person B (Chat)--20 minutes before suggesting I call the airline
Person C (Phone)--40 minutes trying to figure out the problem
Person D (Phone)--5 minutes--took care of the issue.

That 70 minutes for the first three people was wasted and they had to get paid. If they had just fixed the problem right away it would cost them less and I wouldn't have wasted all that time and money. (After 30 minutes, my hotel charges for phone calls.)

Posted by
20461 posts

But if they did it that way, 2 customer service reps would lose their jobs. If one person could do in 5 minutes, what otherwise it would take 3 people to do in 75 minutes, the ranks of the unemployed would swell.

Posted by
15705 posts

I don't think the senior executives care about the ranks of unemployment unless, of course, it included them.

Posted by
15705 posts

Yes, it's a first world problem. I live in the first world. And I enjoy it.

Posted by
930 posts

This is really nothing new for the airline business. My wife worked for Braniff until its demise in 1983. As she put it "thinking outside of the box" was discouraged. There were times she says that she could have taken a shortcut to resolve a customer issue, but the manual said that you handle it in certain way only! Things really have not changed.

Ed

Posted by
1068 posts

It isn't just airlines. I recently got a new computer. Did a brand new fresh install of a piece of software which did not work properly. I contacted support and they spent about 2 weeks of telling me to reinstall, how to completely wipe the old install then attempt a reinstall, how to reinstall as an administrator, how to disconnect my anti-spyware etc., so it didn't interfere with the reinstall and so on. I had done some research on my own and kept suggesting it had to do with the resolution of my monitor (which is large so I can work on photos) but didn't know how to fix it. Finally they did a "takeover" and concluded..... it had to do with the resolution of my monitor. They offered a few suggestions but none of them worked. So even though it seemed to me several weeks worth of various types of reinstalling was pointless, it was their suggestion time after time. Seems that lots of people like to "go by the book!"

Posted by
3205 posts

I don't understand the narrative. It says Person A, 10 min., Person B 20 min., Person C, 40 min., then Person C, 5 min. Did you mean Person D? Was this someone at a higher level? Are you saying you should have been able to reach this person directly in the first place?

If you read forums like Air Travel on Tripadvisor, or certain airlines forums on Flyertalk, you will see lots of gripes about poor customer service---usually related to reaching a call center in India. The usual advice is to "hang up and call again"--- in hopes of getting someone who is better trained or more willing to be creative in the solution. Personally, I have never had an issue ( speaking specifically of British Airways customer service) and have found the agents to be polite and professional.

Posted by
2532 posts

This is an example that I don't experience with Alaska Airlines.

Posted by
2393 posts

Most of them are scripted and are not allowed to go off script - it is not usually until you reach a higher level of support that you get someone who can actually think for themselves! It is unfortunate for the folks calling for actual customer support that they have to suffer through the scripts created to weed out those who call because they forgot to plug something in or click the "next" or "submit" button on a website.

I didn't read this so much as Frank II complaining of a first world problem but making a sad commentary on the state of customer service these days.

Posted by
357 posts

I live in an area with a lot of call centers, and work in one. What Christi says about scripts is correct, and depending on who is calling combined with who answers the call, it can be an adventure. I have spoken to people who have no idea what I'm asking when I ask which browser they're using. Blue E or rainbow circle or orange swirl is how I have had to describe it, and these are professionals who use computers on a daily basis.

If the employee is relatively new, they don't/won't have the experience to be able to judge what you need based on what you say to them. That comes with experience. Where I work, it's at least a full year on the floor before we get to what we consider seasoned, but we're a niche industry.

Based on everything I've learned in my decades in call centers, if you aren't getting through to the person you are talking to, ask for a supervisor/next level person, or hang up and call again.

Posted by
15705 posts

Yes, I meant person D for the second C and I changed it.

I take BA long haul but have found their short haul service to be seriously declining. Their phone customer service is iffy. Sometimes excellent, sometime horrible.

The last time I flew BA short haul, I got a text message after midnight that my flight the next morning was canceled. I couldn't change it online and had to call them for the change. Only their UK and European call centers were closed for the evening. I had to call the U.S. number to get help.

No, I don't think I should have been sent to the last person right away, I think the first person I deal with have the authority to take care of the problem if it is a simple thing to do. In this case, it was a simple thing to do.

Posted by
5260 posts

Frank II,

I understand your frustration and I think you make a good point.

I hate wasting time on the phone, not only with an airline company but with various other businesses.
I've given up using live chats (for the reasons you mentioned) and prefer to speak directly with a live person. If I feel that the person at the other end of the phone keeps putting me on hold, or is not helping me, I politely request to be transfered to a supervisor, and the issue usually gets resolved.

Enjoy your travels!