How not to provide customer service

Lately, I’ve had reason to be on airplanes fairly frequently, and the typical route I take is usually one that one particular major airline serves.  Of course, other airlines go the same direction, but not at times as convenient, so I’ve been using this one airline, and here’s what I’ve found.

You can use any web based service to select the desired flight. So you pick your flight, and make your reservations, easy-peasy, but one thing is missing….. seat assignments.  The seat assigment area of your confirmed reservation says, “confirm seats with airline.”

So I tried to confirm my seats online.  After all, that’s how I bought the tickets in the first place.  I’ve done this with the last two or three flights.  It’s quick and easy.  You go to the main website, put in your confirmation code, and voila, you can pick your seats.  But guess what I found?  The only seats you can pick have little asterisks next to them.  Guess why!

airplaneGo ahead, guess…..

OK, time is up.  There are little asterisks because those are all seats you have to pay more for.  So if you use the website, you have to pick one of the available seats, all of which have an extra cost associated with them. There are no “free” or “included with your ticket” seats.  And there is nothing that states you have any option to select free seats.  If you just go to the website, it looks as though those are the only seats left.

So let’s say you don’t want to pay extra for a seat.  After all, you just spent $400 on a round trip ticket somewhere and you don’t want to pay extra to be able to sit on the plane.  You sort of think a seat actually comes WITH the ticket.  So you decide to call the airline directly.  After all, the instructions state, “Confirm seats with airline.”

So you call them after searching for about 15 minutes on the website for an actual telephone number. And you call and then you are taken through a bunch of voice prompts until about 10 minutes later you are finally brought to a real person.  You explain you are interested in getting assigned seats, and you are promptly put on hold for another 10 minutes while they find you seats.

Eventually, in this instance, I did get seat assignments and they did not cost me any extra.  But they are stinky seats and are probably “Group 10” seats so by the time I get on board, there won’t be room for the teensy-weensy bag I chose to put my weeks worth of clothing in.  This time, I spent a good half hour on the phone getting the seats. Do I have a good feeling about this company?  No!  Am I going to use them in the future?  Probably, but only because I don’t have any great options. Once I do, I’m jumping “ship” as it were.

No matter what business you are in, this is NOT an example of good customer service.  Customer service sort of implies there is service being provided.  Selling tickets that don’t include an actual place to put your butt doesn’t equate to good service.  Making people who don’t want to pay extra for an actual seat stay on the phone for 30 minutes while waiting for an answer is not good service.  Making people who go online to pick a seat pay up to $60 more per leg of their flight to actually get a seat is not good service.

So whatever business you might be in, take this as a lesson on how NOT to conduct your business.  Don’t make people hunt for your contact information.  Don’t advertise a partial product and then use underhanded methods to provide a full product.  Don’t make people spent a half hour trying to get assistance.  Instead, sell what you say you are selling.  Provide simple methods to get assistance.  Be up front about what you are or are not selling.

Customer service in many industries has been definitely faltering lately, and those who can provide great service will, without a doubt, win.


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