Jabberwocky Revisited

By | June 19, 2009
73/365 - Latif
Image by Jennifer Pickens via Flickr

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!

In one of our earlier posts, we commented on the issues of customer service. Three years later, there are much to revisit. Why it is marketing departments spend all their money to reach customers and call centers spend all their money avoiding customers? Interactive voice response(IVR) systems allow companies to gather information and perform simple functions. Our advice at the time was to try nonsense words…Lewis Carroll or perhaps try some Samuel Taylor Coleridge and watch the system give up and get you a person.

We’re not against that. But when these systems shield representatives of the company from customers trying to speak to them, we do object. Every time we call our local utility, we are asked by the automated system for our phone number, then again by the agent. Why bother taking it in the first place? As intelligent people, we demand that the companies we choose to do business to treat us intelligently. With more and more people becoming internet savvy, and able to read information for themselves, why hire people who are trained merely to read information off a website, as opposed to provide assistance above and beyond that?

A bad customer service experience can induce a passenger to another airline, even if it means more money. Chris Elliott reports that United Airlines is making an effort to improve its image…but it takes a great deal of time to change a corporate culture at all levels. Of course, this is the same airline that disconnected its complaint department phone. The economy, of late, isn’t helping. Airlines are slashing everything they can. British Airways is asking employees to take a furlough or work free for one to four weeks. One wonders how motivated those employees will be to provide good customer service in light of that.

But in an incredibly aggressive market, these things pay off. In a twist, airlines are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon, using this tool to push information. JetBlue and Southwest are well known for their personal Twitter touch. United is working on adding theirs. Alaska tweets its Wi-fi enabled flights every day. American and other airlines are there, but not quite at the volume of these carriers. We know JetBlue and Southwest specifically do try to answer questions about the airline online.

Airines work better when they cease to appear to be faceless corporations and work to be perceived as caring and responsible members of a larger community. A little caring…of the appearance of caring…goes a long way. They say you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Airlines should be looking for those little touches to encourage people to love them. For example:

  • Flight Delayed? Bring out some bags of pretzels/peanuts and some beverages from the in-flight services for your passengers.
  • Be Proactive. Some airlines will be on top of things before the passenger even knows about them. An airline calling you the day of the flight and telling you that your flight has been canceled, but they’ve already rebooked you on another carrier at their expense, for example, is proactive.
  • Email. Perhaps you can’t have a live person doing everything. But you can use automation in good customer service. If a plane is delayed, send an email apologizing for the situation and explaining why it was so late. Offer some concession for the future, even a free change on a future itinerary.
  • And so on…
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