(Click on "Travel Matters" (above)  to return to my main blog page)

Paying But Not Getting

I called customer service but...

A recent issue came about where a client booked five bags with a low cost carrier and paid quite a significant sum to do so. On arrival at destination, no bags. Not one bag lost or two bags logs - just no bags. After the usual wait in hope, inquiries revealed that the bags were never loaded in London - and a member of the airline's staff remarked: "They often do that..."

After the usual panic-stricken phone calls, the only response one could get was "Fill in a form" and, helpfully, "Our office is open Monday to Friday..." from a customer care line: "We are in South Africa, we don't deal with baggage..." As this was late on a Friday a large family was left with nothing. Well, not quite nothing, they were offered 25 Euros.

This saga raises a few interesting points. Firstly, if an airline is going to charge extra for a service and the client willingly pays it, then the least one can expect is that one gets what one pays for - and if, for whatever reason, one is not going to get the service duly paid for, then the client should be told right away and not left hanging hopefully round a baggage carousel. If you pay for 5 bags or if you pay for a seat or for anything else that now falls into the "optional extras" bracket, then one should be realistically able to assume that one will get that service.

Secondly, there is the issue of "customer service" . There is a big clue in the name, here. Well, there are two big clues. One clue is the word "customer" and the customer is not an interruption of our work, he or she is the purpose of it. Be it £30 or £300 or £3000 a customer is a customer. Then there is "service". Funny thing "service". Many airlines regard service as being something this or that airline chooses to provide to customers; which is not the same as how a customer may define "service". It is the same as "Frequently Asked Questions" which are what a firm may think a client may like to ask, rather than what is actually asked. No effort seems to be made to tie up what a customer seeks and a supplier wishes to offer. That is not "Customer Service".

The main airline way of dealing with these issues, is to standardise any response and then use social media to turn the 144 character apology into something of a Shakesperian art form. Or to borrow a response from politicians when they are in deep trouble - just say "I apologise unreservedly". One fend-off used in the example given here, was to say that the baggage was handled by a partner firm and the client should deal with them - but only via a website, where the staff look at the issues from.... Yes, Monday to Friday. This is not a defensible reason. If you pay Airline X, it looks like Airline X, sounds like Airline X and smells like Airline X, then Airline X must fix the issue.

There is the underlying reason why these 5 bags did not appear and one which is a most disturbing, if not bizarre reason - that the low cost airline involved had actually "overbooked" their extra baggage. That anyone knowingly takes extra money from a client in the knowledge that they are not able to or there is a good chance that they may be unable to provide that service, then that is nothing more than a sharp practice.

What are the lessons, here? First: If you are going to take money from people for a service, then provide it. If you cannot provide it (for there are issues in air travel, we all know that) then make sure the client is fully apprised as soon as humanly possible - preferably before they fly. Either way, not left just hanging. Second: If you have customer service, then it should be easily accessible (bearing in mind that a client in distress may only have a mobile phone - and possibly not even that) and that customer service should live up to its name. The "one size fits all" customer service style does not work. There must be a way of escalating important issues straight away; not to have that facility is inexcusable. Someone knew where those bags were, someone could have given a definitive answer - and in this day and age, that "someone" sure as anything, had a mobile phone.

Recent Posts