Things I Know 201 of 365: When times are tough, service matters the most

Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.

-Peter Drucker

Generally speaking, I’m not one for confrontation. Diplomacy is my goto route. If there’s an agreeable way to get what I want and what is fair and just, that’s the way I’ll take. Sometimes, this means taking more time to go through the process than I initially bargain for.
Sometimes, it’s not the advisable route.
Friday, I was scheduled to fly out of LAX to Denver for a three day visit with friends before heading home to Illinois.
I’ve been on the road for over a month, so I was ready to start the trek home.
I entered the sliding glass doors and attempted to pull my mobile ticket up on my phone.
No luck.
An error, my phone told me.
Best to go check in at the counter.
I wound my way to a self-check-in counter, entered my confirmation number and was alerted to the fact my flight had been canceled.
Talk to a person, the screen told me.
I wasn’t sure whom the screen meant, so I asked someone with a name tag.
“You want to be in Line 6,” person with name badge told me.
I looked at Line 6, AKA the Line that Time Forgot.
In my 45 minutes waiting I learned Line 6 was home to those displaced by the cancelation of my flight as well as passengers kicked off another of the airline’s flights.
This was on top of those passengers who needed to redeem paper tickets. Line 6 was their line first. We were just scavengers.
By the time I got up to the counter, I’d done my homework. With the help of friends, I knew every other flight to Denver leaving Friday night on every other airline.
“I’d like to be re-booked on Flight X,” I told the ticketer behind the counter.
Flight full.
We did this same dance four more times before he told me the only other flight available had one seat available in first class, and that was over $1,000.
I took my hotel voucher and headed to the airport hotel.
I was angry in that moment.
It was an anger made more intense when I called the airline’s customer assistance line.
My 3-day trip was cut to two, I told the agent on the line, and I would like to be compensated for the inconvenience.
I would have to send an e-mail to Customer Relations, the agent told me.
Would she just transfer me, I asked.
The agent told me she couldn’t. I needed to e-mail Customer Relations and they would e-mail me back.
I asked for the number of the Customer Relations department.
There isn’t one, said the agent, would I like for her to provide me with the e-mail address?
No, thank you, I can find my way around the Internet.
Here’s what gets me about the hole process. It’s what got me about the process when I got to the airport at 4 the next morning to sit stand-by for a flight I wouldn’t get on.
This is an industry with every incentive to get customer service right.
For almost 10 years, now, the airline industry has been melting away, attempting to claw its way back to soluble ground.
If anyone should want to serve me and every other customer well, it’s the good folks at the airlines.
They had every possible piece of contact information for me a person could have.
My mother doesn’t have so many ways to get ahold of me.
Still, it wasn’t until after the hour+ drive to LAX that I learned my flight had been canceled.
Bad form.
Make it company policy to contact a customer the moment a flight is canceled. I don’t need minute-by-minute play-by-play each time a flight falls behind or jumps ahead of schedule. I’m fine with needing to sign up for those services.
Realizing that I’ve purchased a ticket to get somewhere because I genuinely want to get there and that I would appreciate a heads up if that plan falls through seems the decent thing to do.
While we’re re-writing lines of code in the mainframe of airline thinking, when a flight is canceled, if no other flight to that destination is heading out under the same airline, let me know my options on the other airlines. Perhaps, even be so bold as to make it easy for me to select one of those flights or book a later flight on my original airline.
Yes, it might mean I end up flying on another carrier, and you risk losing me as a customer.
Might I suggest, though, that the current system seems to be set up to try to lose me as a customer the moment anything goes wrong.
Watch Miracle on 34th Street. Macy’s sending customers to Gimble’s. Gimble’s sending customers to Macy’s.
Customers are looking for service.
And, if the service is superior, I’m willing to overlook the problems I understand arise when operating a international transportation company.
If I am treated like a human being, I’ll be more likely to remember my humanity when things go wrong.

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