Even the TSA can’t protect a consumer from burned-out customer service agents in the airline business. I just got off of the telephone with an agent who called me ‘hostile’ from her perch in a Texas call center. When I asked for the supervisor and waited for five minutes, she answered in an annoyed voice, “what can I do for you, sir?” I told her I was a bit shaken that one of the agents had called me ‘hostile’ and I would like to know what can be done.
“I’m sorry you did not like the service you received.” Was her answer.
I asked her if she could listen to the recording and let me know what she thought of the conversation. “We do not listen to any recordings here, and our corporate headquarters only randomly records conversations. There is nothing I can do, sir. Would you like to book travel today?”
Twenty minutes earlier: Unlike 95 percent of my travel that I book online without a human from the airline (don’t worry SouthWest, JetBlue, United, and others – it is not you, and I’m not interested in even hinting at the airline), this time I wanted to use “Award Travel” points. I went online as usual, and entered all of the information and began to look for flights. But after multiple tries, it turns out that, due to a flaw in the software, if you have a multi-segment flight and there are not available seats for each segment for you, the system locks up. OK, 15 minutes wasted.
Now I call Award Travel. I speak the commands and provide all of my personal information to the machine and then my entire itinerary. It occurs to me that the airline views me as an unpaid outsourced service agent. Why send work to India or Indiana when you can get the customer to do it for free? No problem. But I am now 25 minutes into this booking, and I first get to an agent who says that there is nothing available unless I use 350% more points to have ‘anytime’ status. Ah, and there is no return. I said that I rarely have success with using points. She says, “Well, sir, we are booking Awards for November 2011 now, it’s way late for March!” Thanks for the advice – where was that little nugget in my “Valued Customer Newsletter?”
Then I ask her, “But even if I do use the high-point Award Points, won’t the total cost be MORE than just paying for the ticket, because I still don’t have a return and will need a one-way ticket back?”
“Sir, you don’t have to be hostile.”
Byegones. Who can tell the difference between frustration and hostility. Ah! A sentiment analysis system, or voice analytics. But the airline chose instead to spend tens of millions of dollars (closer to $100,000,000.00, actually) on a Loyalty Program and the underlying analytics system. This was to better market to the customer. Anything but invest in training and software to help the customer and help the agent to accomplish their jobs.
And did anyone ask me to complete a survey about the quality of the call? Hmmmm. No.
Too many businesses just don’t want to touch the hard stuff, but it is the difference between a kinder and gentler business world and the world of customer aggravation.
But come Monday, I’m in the sky again, delighting TSA agents by my friendly and courteous deportment…
May you all have a wonderful end-of-year.