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31 May

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Customer Service Requires More Than Joining the Conversation

May 31, 2011 | By | 3 Comments

Image Courtesy of Inlander.com

A few weeks ago I read and shared a post on an American Airlines customer care nightmare from Erick Schonfeld, Co-Editor of TechCrunch.  His experience was awful and it was shared all over the web with his; 30,000Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and enormous TechCrunch audience.  I felt his pain but being naïve I thought, “Something like that would never happen to me,” but it did.

My parents, two sisters, and I had booked an all day trip via Delta to St. Louis for a family reunion event celebrating my grandfather’s 80th birthday.  We were supposed to leave Jacksonville for St. Louis via a Memphis connection around 7:40 a.m. Eastern Time. After arriving at the airport, we looked up at the JIA (Jacksonville International Airport) big information screen and it said our flight to MEM (Memphis) was delayed until 10:15 a.m. (20 minutes before our flight from Memphis to St. Louis was set to take off).

We went to the Delta desk where they explained that the crew for our flight came in too late last night and needed rest. Obviously we were not going to make our expected arrival time in St. Louis; the earliest Delta said they could get us there was late afternoon or early evening.  The family reunion was to set to end around the time that they could get us to St. Louis, so we cancelled the trip and were refunded for all tickets.

My family was really upset that we could not be with the rest of our kin and my mom was crying like a baby because she was unable to spend precious time with her aging father.  I tweeted, not to get a response but to share our displeasure over the fact that some airlines treat paying customers poorly and do not understand customer service.

Much to my surprise (sarcasm), @DeltaAssist saw my tweet and responded within a half hour asking for my confirmation number.  Once I sent over the number I received this direct message, “Yes I am showing it was refunded. Ity’ll take a couple of business days to appear on your statement. Again, sorry for the inconvenience. ^KT,” Delta really show that they care!  They continued to follow my conversations online (which they did well) and realized that my family was upset, so they direct messaged me a number for their Customer “Care” center in Atlanta.

Here is where the fun begins!  I called the number they sent me and the office is closed on weekends.  This of course is helpful for the millions of travelers who may need assistance on weekends.  How can one of the country’s biggest airlines have someone overly active on Twitter but not have sufficient customer service representatives working on weekends?

Instead of resolving the situation Delta made sure that people saw they were trying to reach out to me.  Trying to control the conversation over complaints is great if your goal as a company is to help the consumer resolve their issue.  I wish I could say the same for Delta, but during the conversation on Twitter I quickly realized they don’t use it to resolve issues.  They use it for public relations and to direct angry consumers to a place where they might get help during Monday-Friday office hours.

Delta has a new television commercial that describes them as going out of the way for their customers and even goes as far as to say, “The next time an Airline asks for yours (your business), ask them first what they’ve done to deserve it!”  Delta, we are asking you that question right now!

Comments

  1. Great article about the difficulties of air travel – but really, the fragility and oppression of the hub and spoke system. Social Flights recently launched as a group organizing method for booking private jet charter. This is where collaborative consumption and real like gamification meet. When 16 people can share an 8 person Jet (8 people flying each way) then the price comes down substantially while the service increases substantially. no more delays, harassment, or cattle calls. We are growing substantially with on-demand point to point charter services.

    Let me know if you would like to know more – we were recently covered in Fast Company and Mashable

  2. I appreciate the comment Dan. Companies must realize in this digital world that consumers will find out when they are poorly handling a situation and expose it. Some people take freedom of speech too far, but if a company can say things like, “The next time an Airline asks for yours (your business), ask them first what they’ve done to deserve it,” when in reality they may be lacking in customer service; there is a valid complaint. If you have the money to fund major national television advertisement campaigns, you should also have the capital to fund 24/7 customer service. Why can’t passengers be notified overnight if there early morning flight is facing long delays and they will miss their connections? That to me would seem like a big help to the enormous amount of travelers who fly every year.

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