Giving Credit When Credit is Due


by Joyce Ouellette |

We hear so much about less then optimal customer service I thought it only fair I share a recent positive experience. And acknowledge the systems integration, complex information processes, and the people that must work together to make them happen.

The next morning I checked my flight status

During a recent business trip, I was watching carefully a “weather event” moving into the area, and I did not want to get stuck in an airport. The night before my flight, I checked in online and printed my boarding passes.

The next morning I checked my flight status and there was no indication of any problems. While attending several morning meetings, I monitored the worsening weather and continued to check my flight status. Sure enough, my flight was cancelled.

Now at this point I panicked a little. I immediately called customer service to make alternative arrangements. Unfortunately the wait times for an agent was running 60 minutes! (The process here could have been a little better coordinated – see below.)

Just as I hung up I got an email from the airline.

The email confirmed my flight had been cancelled, and they had already made alternative flight arrangements for me. Embedded in the email was a link to my new boarding pass, which I could print from my smartphone if need be. I was arriving home earlier than originally planned, and I hadn’t yet left for the airport.

Make no mistake, designing the processes to deliver this type of service is not easy.

The operations decision to cancel the flight kicks off multiple processes that require coordination with different departments. There is the gathering of the customers’ existing flight information, preferences and updated contact information, which likely involves integration of back-end systems with customer-facing processes. Up-to-date information and accuracy are critical.

Some things might have been done better

In order to make reasonable alternative arrangements the reservations department must understand more than just the data: conditions at connecting airports, traveling with others, “home” airport, etc.

Then communicating the new information, both internally (operations, billing) and to the impacted customer, requires multiple and coordinated formats (email, phone, texting). Multiply this by the thousands of customer, to be done in minutes, and you begin to understand the scope of the challenge.

Some things might have been done better. For example, given the scope of this weather event (and the lead time operations must have had) it seems the contact center could have been alerted to have more staff for the anticipated volume of calls.

But in this case I got the right information (my new flight and boarding pass) via the right channel and format (my smartphone) at the right time (ample time to get to the airport). My congratulations and thanks to the people who designed this process and made it work.

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