How to create a Detractor

This is the second in our National Customer Service Week blogs.  Today’s theme:

How do you create a Detractor?

Sadly the answer is all too easily, especially if you don’t live up to promises, leave a customer chasing you for a resolution, or provide mixed and inaccurate communications.

Excellent customer service isn’t just having a great product or service; it has to extend to every touchpoint with a customer and be effective, consistent and honest.

Here’s an example of how

Earlier this year my wife and I had booked a long weekend to Dublin with friends.  On arriving at Heathrow our flight was cancelled.  Aer Lingus informed us it was due to a technical issue with the plane, which actually turned out to be an issue with the flaps, so as a glider pilot myself, I had no issue that the plane was cancelled on safety grounds.

The ground staff were helpful and made the suggestion that the fastest way to get to Dublin would be to re-route to Belfast and they’d arrange a coach/taxi to Dublin.  Not ideal but we had no choice.  The flight was good, the air crew great.  There was a little confusion at Belfast but the taxi did come and eventually four hours late we arrived at Dublin airport.

So is this my issue?  No.  The staff did as much as they could in the circumstances.  We had a great weekend and on Sunday returned to Dublin airport to catch our flight back, which, yep you guessed it, was cancelled!  A technical problem with the plane!  Again the staff did their best and this time rerouted us to Gatwick.  Again the flight was fine, no complaints there.

At this point it had been annoying to have had two flights cancelled there and back but I’m a realist and these things happen.

So how do you turn someone who’s slightly dissatisfied into a detractor?  Easy…

You send them two emails saying ‘we regret that your flight is cancelled’… ‘for full information on your rights and our obligations under Regulation (EC) 261/2004, please follow this link… We apologise for the inconvenience caused.’

Under (EC) 261 if your flight is cancelled or delayed for more than 4 hours you are entitled to compensation.  I applied using the online form, received an acknowledgement and case reference number.  Two weeks later, no news so I enquired again and received another acknowledgement.  The same thing happened another week later.  And then an email saying ‘your case has been transferred to a specialist for review’.

Six weeks after the claim and no update, I tried Twitter in the hopes of a better response.  The reply: ‘apologies please DM us with your case reference number’.  A week after that, a stronger tweet, but the same reply.  So Twitter didn’t work either.

What next?  The Civil Aviation Authority.  I sent them full details and asked them to pursue.

Five days later a reply from the airline!  I will be getting compensation, to allow 10 days and ‘if anything is incorrect please reply to this email’.  Things were incorrect, so I did ask they asked and replied to the email with the corrections.

The airline then went quiet again, so I went back to the CAA.  Two weeks later, the airline told me I should not have replied by email, I should have used the online form as ‘emailing has caused delays in handling your case’.  Hold on, you TOLD me to email you and now you’re implying I’m at fault for the delay?

Finally, 14 weeks after the claim, payment was received.  But, it’s too late now to stop me being a detractor.

From being an OK customer to a detractor

I went from someone who understood these things happen and, although inconvenienced, wasn’t too upset, to a detractor.  Someone who has now posted poor reviews, is blogging about the experience, and personally telling everyone to avoid using the airline.  And all because of the failings to deal with the situation not during but after the event.

The moral of the story is customer experience is like a chain: it’s only as strong as its weakest link.

The staff on the front line, on the ground and in the air, did their best to help and got me where I needed to be.  Yet the problems that occurred afterwards soured the entire experience.

Customers will accept a certain amount of inconvenience and frustration, but only so long as companies are open, communicative and apologetic.  In this regard, the airline failed miserably and created a detractor.

It’s not rocket science: answer emails, don’t give out mixed messages, make sure your processes work.

Check back tomorrow for our third blog in the National Customer Service Week series.

 

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