In today’s War on Customer Service Terrorism report, we feature the illustrious Southwest Airlines. As is often the case in this erratic series of reports, the story begins with a highly esteemed, respected company. A company I’ve done business with for some time, often years, based upon many happy transactions and an ongoing commitment to value. So when the Customer Service Terrorists strike, it’s almost always completely unexpected and often explosively disruptive; hence, Terrorism. To be even more precise, what we are seeing is a War On Customers via Service Terrorism.
In today’s episode, we follow the Southwest.com web site’s appeal to make our travel more convenient and simple by using the MySouthwest portal to:<blockquote># View travel itineraries
Quick reservations based on travel preferences and stored trips
Store credit card preferences for added convenience
View your account activity
Verify/change your account information
Change your password
Rapid Rewards Members can view your Rapid Rewards credit detail and Awards</blockquote>Sounds great. We have a small family, but still, as designated family travel agent, I book travel for the four of us on a fairly regular basis. This should be helpful. I’m happy.
So, I login to the MySouthwest site and snap through the familar screens to book a flight for my wife. Everything is familiar, they’ve done a good job of not OVER customizing and changing the whole interface, just because it’s a “my” space – in the generic sense, of course.
Click to confirm. Flight booked, great! Oh, but what!? I’m the passenger. Now, I KNOW I double checked to make certain that my wife’s name was in the Passenger field, why did it do this to me? Scan the page for ways to “Edit My Itinerary.” Bzzzt! Wrong answer. There will be no correcting for mistakes in MySouthwest. Okay, fine, I have a long history of good results with the humans at 1800-I-FLY-SWA, so I call.
Immediately, the Customer Accusations begin. I’m shocked and awed. When did this happen to Southwest, too? “Well, sir, were you LOGGED IN to your account?”
“Well, yes ma’am, I was.”
“Well, YOU CAN’T JUST GO AND DO that. I don’t know if they’ll let you change this, but maybe they will, since you just now made the mistake.”
Oh, it’s MY mistake, I see, but I say, “What do you mean I can’t do that, I thought that’s what it was for – MySouthwest.com.”
In an irritated tone, “Well, that’s YOUR MySouthwest, any travel you book there is only for you, [you idiot].” The bracketed text is implied, but believe me, I get it.
Working hard to keep cool, and so far succeeding, “All I’m saying is that the system asked me for a passenger and I put my wife’s name in the passenger field, so I don’t understand why it changed that on it’s own.”
In much more aggressive tone, “You CAN’T JUST DO THAT, sir. That’s what I just told you. You can’t put someone else in the passenger field.”
Still consciously working to stay on the cool, “If you don’t mind my asking, then why does the site even provide the field asking for passenger information, if I am the only allowed passenger? That’s extremely confusing and costs both of us in terms of inconvenience and wasted time in the form of this call.”
I often try to get the service rep on the same team with little techniques like this. The idea is to convey that we are both stuck in this together. It works about 25% of the time, so always worth a shot. But if you’re dealing with a customer terrorist, forget it.
Insistent, “Sir, I can’t hear you … your phone is breaking up.”
I repeat myself, enunciating more carefully, patience wearing thin.
More emphatic, “Sir, I can’t hear you … your phone is breaking up.”
Now, audibly irritated, “Wow, that’s interesting, you could hear me just fine all the way up to the point that I have questions or comments about the system?”
Now, literally shouting, “Sir, I can’t hear you … your phone is breaking up.”
“Wow, okay, so that’s how it is. Can you please help me fix this?”
“Yes sir, I’ll need you to go back to the Southwest.com site, sign out of your account, rebook the entire flight, and then I’ll give you a code to use existing funds so that you don’t get charged twice.”
So she could phcking hear me, the entire time.
That’s fine, I’m happy enough with that and I understand that this is where she was pushing the conversation, but I still think it’s important to provide CUSTOMER FEEDBACK to the customer SERVICE folks so that data points can be collected. By shutting down my report, the company is shutting out important DATA about what works and what doesn’t work. Moreover, I am encountering this aggressive method of literally SHOUTING ME INTO SUBMISSION in more and more service center encouters. This is just one tactic that I’m suggesting as symptomatic of the wider War On Customers via Service Terrorism.
If 10,000 people get shut down like this, then the simple fix of correcting that MySouthwest web form by simply NOT INCLUDING A PASSENGER FIELD – if that’s the borked way they want to keep doing things – could evade the company for years and literally cost hundreds of millions in wasted support dollars fixing calls like mine. I’ll refrain from further comment on the overall web site design that first lures the visitor into the MySouthwest site “for your convenience, with quick reservations based on travel preferences and stored trips” UNLESS your travel preferences include your family members, that is. Because at Southwest, YOU are the center of our universe and to hell with your family.
PROPOSAL: Development of a network of blogs or a small set of distinct Technorati tags that helps to aggregate and collate information on the gradually escalating War on Customers via Service Terrorism.
PURPOSE: To better track and monitor corporate Brand Value and to balance financial claims of Good Will value with observed and documented Bad Will behavior.