What If We All Treated Our Customers Like the Airline Industry Does?

December 10, 2008

Our company is fairly focused on service and doing everything possible to make customer support an affordable and friendly process for our clients.  We try not to bill for small changes and genuinely enjoy speaking with our customers about new ideas and problem solving.  We think that's the right way to approach service and our clients tend to agree. 

However, it's hard to realize that our friendly process is unique until you deal with the total opposite, which is what I just had to go through today with US Airways.
In an effort to move my flight from Dec. 28th to Dec. 26th, I was presented with the following process:

  • Three levels of an automated operator system
  • Passed off to a monotone customer support rep (50% chance this was also automated/robotic, but I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt)
  • $150 change fee to move my ticket
  • $220 new ticket fee to purchase a new seat on the Dec. 26th flight

That's right - they wanted me to pay $370 simply to move my flight up 36 hours.  By moving from the 28th to the 26th - I was probably doing them a favor, as the 28th is definitely the more desirable date.  There was no real cost to them.

However, they still expected me to pay more for a simple flight change than I did for my entire flight in the first place.  How do they think they can get away with this?!?  Especially when a quick perusal of Kayak shows that I can buy a one-way flight on Delta for a total of $131 - $19 less than US Airways' "change fee".

This policy is like us telling one of our web design clients that a new feature, which we already have built and just need to implement on their site, will cost them more than the actual site itself.  I know I couldn't sleep at night billing our clients like that, but apparently the brass at USAirways have no problem operating their business in this manner.

US Airways could have easily resolved this situation by taking the following steps:

  • Having the phone answered by a friendly customer service rep eager to help me.
  • Explain to me the reason for the change fee while they're looking up other flight options.
  • Give me the option of paying just the change fee or the competitive rate for a one-way flight.

Not only would this have left me quite satisfied - it also would have made me an advocate for their brand and more likely to fly US Airways in the future.  However, they settled for attempting to make a quick buck and alienating a frequent flier.

In the end, Delta gained my business for this flight and USAirways lost my business forever.

Why is it that some corporations think it's good business to put themselves first and unnecessarily charge the consumer?  I'm happy that we're a small, agile web design firm that is focused on delivering results rather than squeezing every possible penny from our clients.

Anyone else have horror stories about how the airlines or big companies are terribly out of touch with their consumers and approach to customer support?

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