Customer Satisfaction – Saved by a Technicality

Maybe I am missing the goals airlines are trying to achieve with their frequent flyer programs. I thought they were trying to attract loyalty among their frequent fliers and recognize them with a few extra perks (besides free trips), like boarding the plane first, or having your own phone number for service. I guess what I was asking for in return for my loyalty was too much. Let me explain.

I just attended the Service & Support Professionals Association (SSPA) Conference in Santa Clara. Ironically, at this conference I listened for two days about best practices companies deploy to provide superior customer support and satisfaction, and here I am writing about a negative experience with my preferred carrier, American Airlines. I was supposed to visit a customer in the San Francisco area, so I booked my return flight out of the San Francisco airport. Well, my meeting was cancelled, so I wanted to change my flight to a day earlier and switch to the San Jose airport, just down the street from the conference. It would cost $100 to change my departure by 1 day but still fly out of the San Francisco airport, or the $100 change fee, plus $822 for the fare difference now that my departure date was only 2 days away to fly out of the San Jose airport. Since I couldn’t justify the extra money, I made the $100 change, and returned to the conference.

On the last day of the conference I checked the flight out of San Jose (about the same departure time as my San Francisco flight) and saw the flight was less than half full. So, let’s see where we are now – I could leave an extra hour early, spend $80 on a cab, burn up a couple extra gallons of fuel (OK, I’m playing the environmental card because it helps my cause) and fly out of San Francisco, or travel 10 minutes down the road and fly out of San Jose on a plane less than half full. I’ve already paid a $100 charge fee, so American Airlines has already gotten the maximum revenue they are going to get out of me for this trip. So, in light of the situation I’ve described, American Airlines should be indifferent to what plane I fly on, and therefore, since I am a Platinum member, they should take care of one of their frequent fliers and satisfy one of their most important customers.

No brainer, right? Call my special Platinum number, explain this scenario, and surely the agent will be happy to accommodate me. Boy, was I wrong. The agent wasn’t allowed to do it, even though she completely understood and sympathized with my position. She had no latitude to take matters in her own hands and satisfy a customer.

But alas, I was saved by a technicality. Since my San Francisco flight was already scheduled to depart 30 minutes late, the “policy” was waived and she was allowed to place me on a different flight at no additional charge. Not because it was practical, not because I was a Platinum member, not to satisfy a customer, but because of a technicality.

Another opportunity for customer satisfaction gone astray. These opportunities aren’t missed at Dovetail Software. Just ask the customer who didn’t renew their support with us because they were acquired by another company using a different CRM package, but needed our latest version to solve a short-term problem. We happily gave it to them for no charge. Another satisfied Dovetail customer.

Until Next Time,


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