We have all heard the old adage “the customer is always right.” This is meant as a guide-post for businesses to live by. It gives companies a way to up-sale, service, and retain customer loyalty. After all, most companies spend a substantial amount of capital attracting, developing, and retaining customers. Each industry has its own unique methods.
The airline’s miles systems.
One loyalty program that is a favorite, of course, are the frequent flyer programs. But what happens when a program that is designed to retain customers actually drives them away? I had one such case (that is still going on now for five weeks), with a U.S. major airline that I won’t mention by name.
It started when I wanted to “gift” my miles to my nephew in Michigan. He is 13, so if flying alone, he is considered an unaccompanied minor. I had the miles, so I wanted to send him 1st Class to Washington D.C. to see family members. He was so excited. After researching the exact schedule, I called to make the reservation. After being disconnected a few times, and waiting more than 30 minutes each time, I finally got through. I made the reservation, but had to call back after the ticket was sent to me, to pay for the unaccompanied minor fee (I couldn’t use miles, and was $300). Bad enough, right?
It got worse!
When the electronic ticket came through; it had coach both ways. Ok, back to the phone. Three more calls and 30 minute wait times, I got through and the 1st Class status was changed. I still couldn’t pay for the fee until the new ticket came through. Stay with me here… it still gets worse.
The new ticket arrives and I call back. No one knows how to take the fee, as the airline just merged with another one and I got transferred back and forth 3 times until someone was able to take my credit card. I was to receive a receipt via email, and this was to be taken with the child at both ends. This receipt was to come in 3 days. After 7 days, with no email, I called back. Fast forward, 3 more disconnected calls and 30 minute wait times, I was promised the receipt would be sent.
They resent the ticket and not the receipt!
I am still waiting for the receipt and on one call I got a supervisor who offered to return miles to my account as compensation. I refused the miles. I said, “I don’t want to fly your airline…keep your miles.” They were shocked.
A business opportunity.
If your company has a complaints department, this could be one of your most important divisions. If there is a problem, it will probably end up here. How you handle problems is paramount if your customer will continue to do business with you. I am not saying mistakes don’t happen, but my experience wasn’t a mistake. It is a system design flaw. If you have systems in place and you don’t go through them yourself, there might be a cancer brewing in your firm.
I’ll get back to you when I receive my $300 receipt… oh sorry… it was $322, they forgot to tell me that was not including tax.