Or: why you need to be fanatic about detail across the customer journey
Last October – while visiting the US – I booked a domestic flight from A to B. I used an airline from the same global alliance than my home airline with which I have status and also accumulated some miles.
I used those miles to book my ticket and got a confirmation which, among other things, stated that I was entitled to 20 kg of free luggage. Standard communication, all genuinely nice, easy online transaction. What could possibly go wrong? After all, global alliances present this use case as a main benefit to their customers.
On due date I arrived at the airport and went for the check-in procedure. You know, show ticket, check in your luggage, get a boarding pass. Except when the airline staff saw my suitcase, they told me I needed to pay thirty bucks for it to be accepted.
I looked at the scale. My suitcase was well within the 20 kg limit I was promised during the booking. I could have argued with the staff, but it is common knowledge that arguments at the airport rarely help achieve anything positive. What they most definitely result in is waste of everyone’s time. I had a flight to catch, so I quietly paid the money and proceeded to board the plane.
Not, however, without making a mental note to get back to this matter. Not because those thirty dollars were such a huge amount, or I am a vindictive person, I just like to kick the tires on processes that squeak in a customer journey. How can airline A confirm a baggage allowance in writing and operating airline B ignore that and charge you?
How easily can your customers contact you … and hear back from you, too?
So, when I came back from the trip, I contacted the airline with a quick email on November 3 and explained the situation, asking for a refund. The reply was dead silence. I shrugged it off and carried on about my usual things, until one fine late February morning (four months after my mail), I get a message from the airline informing me that my case has now been forwarded to the refunds team so that I can get my refund.
Thinking “better late than never” I decided to wait, and a two weeks later I got this message from the refund team working on my promised refund:
Now, there are a few good things in this message: said airline lets back-office staff communicate directly with customers – that’s great and creates a spirit of everyone’s responsibility. Secondly, the message came only two weeks after the previous message – not too bad in the airline world!
However, that is where the good bits end. The internal jargon used in the message is completely incomprehensible to – at least – me. And my reply to the sender asking for an explanation of the message is – as of today, two months later – without an answer.
What can we all learn from this story?
The moral of the story is amazingly simple. Even if you are in the highest maturity level of customer centricity, like the global airline in my story, you still need to remember to look at the basics. We always strive for excellence and talk about fine-tuning VoC response rates, optimizing digitization and what not, which is all fine and very necessary. But at the same time your customers should not wait for four months to get a response from you which is then in an internal professional jargon they cannot possibly understand.
At the same time, keep your communication channels open for your customers – particularly for your premium/status customers. In this example I have pinged about every team related to CX or customer relation with nothing but automated receive notifications.
As much as you innovate your top projects, do not take your eyes off simple things too.
As to my correspondence with the airline, I am still keeping their last message. I like to think that if I ever manage to decipher it, I will find the answer to Life, Universe, and Everything.
What have you seen in terms of great CX overall but epic failure at the detail level?