Friday, May 29, 2009

CUSTOMER SERVICE: nuisance or added value?

Last month I did fly from Paris to Mexico City, where I was supposed to catch the next flight to Puerto Vallarta. Yes. I needed some sun and warmth….

While we were already boarded in Paris and waiting to take off, the message came that there was a delay due to maintenance issues. Well, that is not a problem in itself, as I rather wait than fly with troubles. The delay lasted for more than 1,5 hours.


So, when we arrived at Mexico City I did miss my connection to Puerto Vallarta. Many more people missed their connection. However, nobody told us what to do next. Finally we did find out that we had to go to the customer service office of this particular airline. It was a challenge to find it, as it was located next to the parking garage and there were no signs at all. After searching for a while, we did find the office, or rather the closed door to the office. There was a small sign on it which mentioned that they were only open between 12 and 2 pm. And the current time was 11 pm……! The door was locked so we pushed the button on the intercom and waited. We were surprised that after a while the door opened slightly and a woman asked what she could do for us. Once she received our papers, she went back in, closed the door and we (3 men) were supposed to wait on the corridor. There were no chairs, nothing, just a dark corridor. After more than 30 minutes the door opened again and the lady returned. She had booked us all in a hotel and we were booked on the connecting flights for the next day. Well, that was fine, because we were rather tired anyway.


The next day when I wanted to check in for my flight, they said there was no reservation in my name……… “ I am sorry Sir, you are not booked on this flight”. Then I went straight into the office of the airline for the connecting flight. That was new to them, customers are not allowed in here. But they understood that I was rather determined to get this solved, so finally they helped me out.


What can be learned from this? In my opinion customer service is really crucial to the way in which I perceive the quality of a company. Things can go wrong, we are all human after all. And I rather have the airplane fixed than a crash. Then it would be appropriate to have an open office, which can be easily found and accessed. Maybe even with a waiting area and friendly people who assure me that they will take care of my problems. If they do that in a professional and attentive way, I will even become enthusiastic about their service and tell it to others. Now the opposite is the case.


When I arrived at my home after my holiday, I received a letter from the airline. They apologized for the delay (fine) and credited my frequent flyer card with 2000 miles…… A nice gesture, but I had not asked for that and I don’t care at all about the number of points/miles on my card. So, why not give me a choice between several options? I am wondering what they would do if I didn’t have a frequent flyer card.

What even anointed me more was that the letter was not signed and there was no name of the representative mentioned. It clearly was an automatic process which distributed the letter, rather than a personal approach.


Customer Service can really add a lot of value to the relationship with the customer, even more than from the product or service itself. This means that it should not be treated as a nuisance, a necessary evil in itself!


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