Customer Service Stories : Villain...Major US-based International Airline
As a frequent flyer, I have tried many different airlines over the years. Now that I am based in Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada, my choice of carriers into the US is somewhat limited. I can choose a Canadian carrier, which means that every trip is via Toronto, or I can choose a local carrier, which takes me into Minneapolis. For the past year, I have been using the local carrier to take me into Minneapolis, and then a flight from there to other US or international destinations using an airline we shall call 'NNN'.
Over the past year I have had several poor experiences with NNN. I came to expect this as 'normal' for an airline, probably like many other customers. However recently, I have become very disillusioned by the lack of 'customer care' from NNN. Even faxes I have sent to their CEO (personally addressed to him!) go unnoticed. It seems ironic that when so many airlines are struggling to retain customers and make a profit, they can afford to neglect feedback from their customers. Maybe they have plenty of other satisfied customers who will make up for my lost business (at least 40 flights per year from my company alone) and the potential effect my story will have on other, would-be passengers of NNN!
A few weeks ago, my colleagues and I were busy planning for a major show in the UK. Like many other business people, we looked around for pricing/availability etc. We called up several carriers and visited their websites searching for 4 tickets from Thunder Bay to London, England. Eventually, I decided to book 4 tickets with NNN by calling their 1-800 number one Friday afternoon. The agent I spoke to in reservations was very helpful and she quoted me the itinerary and price that I was looking for. I asked her to hold it, and she confirmed it would be held for a couple of days as long as I called back before 10pm on the Sunday. I also reserved seating for all legs of the trip.
That Sunday evening at 9pm, I called with my credit card to confirm the booking. When I finally got through and quoted my booking number, the agent confirmed the flights and itinerary but then quoted me an additional US $150 per person for the flights! I asked why and was told by the agent that prices are not guaranteed unless the booking was confirmed with a credit card at time of booking. I explained to her that I was not told this and she insisted that I was. I re-iterated, and also told her I felt I should not pay extra as I did what I was asked to do. She insisted that all agents tell you this information. I strongly objected and got a big sigh from the agent and she again insisted I would have been told. I replied by saying if I was told this I would have given my credit card over and made a firm booking. She did not respond. I asked for the reservations manager and was put on hold.
About 5 minutes later, a supervisor came on the line and I explained the situation. She said she did not have the authority to allow us to keep the reservation at the same price I was quoted, and did not help when I again mentioned I was not told of their procedures. She said there was nothing they could do. I asked if calls were recorded and the supervisor replied that some are, and it's at the discretion of the manager to record their team's calls. I really wanted to get a copy of my first call that Friday so I could prove the agent wasn't doing her job but wasn't getting anywhere. Finally, I asked for the CEO's name and fax number and refused to proceed with a booking that would cost us a total of $600 extra! At this time, I was extremely angry and frustrated - what should have been a simple process became a nightmare and was eating into my personal time significantly!
It was getting late, so I tried checking their website to see if I could get the original deal. Surprisingly, it still showed availability, so I attempted to book 2 seats and asked my wife to do the same. This would mean that I could get everyone covered under the company insurance. At exactly the same time, (within minutes) we both clicked 'submit reservation' (on 2 separate computers). Wouldn't you know - one booking went thru and the other didn't because it said there was no availability! So I only had 2 seats out of 4 booked. It was now 11.30pm and the process was driving me crazy!
The next day I sent a fax to the CEO stating my dissatisfaction and requesting they contact me to discuss the situation. I explained the problem with their contact center and their website. I stated we needed 4 seats, that they should honor the original booking, and that he should try to get the recording of the call. I heard nothing. Eventually, a colleague suggested that we should try their vacations website. We tried, and managed to book 2 seats at the original price we had been quoted the Friday before! The whole thing was a real messy process. Finally though, we had 4 seats!
A few days later I sent another fax to the CEO asking if they cared about their customers. 2 weeks and not a single reply!
By the way, when we finally had 4 seats, we called reservations and asked if we could keep the original seating arrangement I had reserved on my first call that Friday. The agent we got was curt and said we could not. She added that we should never have been given these because they are only allocated at time of check in. This final response made my smile - they really don't seem to have a clue!
Today's Tip of the Day - Network Based Contact Center?
Published: Friday, September 20, 2002
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