I had booked round trip tickets for the family on American airlines. The three seats were on the same record locator. We couldn’t make the trip and ended up cancelling the tickets. American Airlines allows the use of unused funds for a flight in the next 12 months (with a fee of $ 150 per seat). A few months later, I decided to use the unused funds for a flight for my daughter and I. There didn’t seem any way to do it online. I had to call AA reservations to ge it done.
The AA agent wanted to charge me $ 25 for making a phone call to make a reservation. I said that AA does not provide me a way to do it online and so they should not be charging me for making the phone call. She politely explained to me that it was the policy, while I tried to argue that the policy was not right. She ultimately got a bit pissed off. It seemed to me that she was implying that I did not understand the situation. I requested an escalation and went through the same routine with her manager. He agreed to wave the fee this one time, while suggesting that it was not a very difficult policy to understand.
I get it that companies make trade offs in terms of costs system upgrades, number of occurences of a particular type of case and number of customers it affects. They don’t seem to factor in customer dissatisfaction very well as it is difficult to measure. The airline industry has lost billions of dollars over the last few years. Providing a bad customer experience does not help the cause, especially when you try to rip off a loyal customer. (AAdvantage member since November 2000)
- As Jeff Bezos says, “Start with the customer and work backward”.
- Monetize only when you are creating value for your customer, not when the customer feels trapped.
- The phone reservation fee is to force more people to go online. Do not charge customers if they cannot do it online and the only option is to place a phone call.
- Accept that the policy is not right. Question the policy internally.
- Use the costs associated with fielding calls as a forcing function to make system changes.
- Don’t imply to the customer that he or she does not get it.
When you get into an elevator, invariably someone presses the “Door Close” button. What is the thought process? “I am in a hurry and I want to get to my next task as soon as possible”. The “Door Close” button doesn’t really work (in most cases) and even if it did, the amount of time saved will be infinitinismal. “I cannot move the deadline, but I can put some more distance between my deadline and now”. Is it about maintaining a semblance of control rather than actual control?
Some people optimize the process by pressing the “Door Close” button before the floor number button. “It doesn’t matter which floor I go to, as long as I get there quickly.” Urgent is more important than what is being done urgently. We try to force a sense of urgency, where none is required or effective. It is the only way to get attention.
Some people use it in an attempt to avoid being in a closed space with an annoying neighbor or a coworker who is going to ask you for an update about some project. Maybe all the people pressing those buttons are also trying to avoid someone. What happens when the person you want to avoid is in the elevator and you realize that after you are inside the elevator? Do you press the “Door Open” button and get out mumbling that you wanted to go in the opposite direction or you forgot something? Do we want to avoid the co-worker’s questions because we have let something fester for a long time until it can become urgent?
Are you willing to create conditions where you can have meaningful conversations instead of uncomfortable ones because you are ahead of urgent? What would happen if we removed the “Door Close” button from our lives? Seth Godin in his usual inimitable style has some answers.
This is from about two years back.
Going through security while flying and good customer experience always seem to be at odds with each other. Authorities seem to err on the side of ignoring customer experience when it comes to security. About two and half years back, I was flying from Mumbai to Kolkata on Jet Airways. The security guard at the main gate to the terminal checked my e-ticket printout and accepted my credit card as a form of identification and felt that my face had a reasonable correlation with my name and shooed me in. After doing a quick check in at the Jet counter and getting my boarding pass, I started towards the gate unaware that my boarding pass was going to be in circulation far more times than a currency note.
Check 1: The stern looking security guy with an intimidating semi-automatic looked at my boarding pass and nodded towards the security gates. A totally unnecessary check.
Check 2: Another security guy looks at my boarding pass, verifies the date on it and asks me to stuff my carry on bag into the X-Ray machine. Another stiff and stern look.
Check 3: I go through the metal detector, climb the security pedestal, give my boarding pass to the guy with a hand held metal detector and then spread out my arms to be frisked.
Note to self: Do not leave your wallet in your back pocket and give an opportunity to someone to try to do something funny with your back side.
Check 4: After my boarding pass is stamped and the luggage tag is stamped as well, I proceed to the gate agent. She checks my boarding pass and lets me through the gate to proceed to board the bus to get to the aircraft.
Check 5: Another security guard checks my boarding pass and my luggage tag to see if they have been stamped by the security folks. Do you guys trust any of your colleagues?
Check 6: As I proceed towards my bus, another airline employee checks my boarding pass to ensure that I am boarding the right bus. I notice that they don’t do it for people who are better dressed than me. This looks like sartorial profiling.
Note to self: Should have bought that blazer from Men’s Warehouse.
Check 7: After a circuitous route by the bus, while the bus driver was trying to pass the baggage guy from the wrong side, we finally get to the aircraft. Another airline agent checks my boarding pass. Folks, how do you think I got so far??
Check 8: I climb the stairs and their is another attendant on the plane who checks my boarding pass again and tells me, aisle seat on your left.
Check 9: I settle down in my seat finally convinced that I can put away my boarding pass for now. Suddenly, I see another agent walk up to me asking me to see my boarding pass. This time it was a pleasant surprise as I was getting upgraded to business class as they had oversold the economy section.
I couldn’t understand why they were doing this, as I fly Jet very rarely, my ticket was an advance purchase with the cheapest fare and I was also not wearing my blazer which I didn’t buy from Men’s Warehouse. For once, I kept my mouth shut and didn’t say anything stupid and in a very matter-of-fact-nonchalant way made my way to the front of the aircraft.
After getting pampered by the listless and emotionless flight attendants from Jet Airways, I was 100% convinced that my boarding pass had met enough people for the day. I mean even a cat has only 9 lives and this was just a stupid boarding pass. I was so wrong!!
Check 10: After arriving in Kolkata, I get off the plane and to my greatest surprise there is an agent standing at the bottom of the ladder, who asks to look at my boarding pass. I felt like asking him as to what was he going to do if I didn’t have one? Send me back on the next flight?
Note to self: Always keep your boarding pass with you and guard it more than you guard your money.
Note to Jet Airways: Make sure your boarding passes are printed on durable paper. The passes will need all the strength and durability.
I can understand being very vigilant about security, but there should be some balance between a good customer experience and flight security.