Hey AA – How ‘Bout Some QA?

I don’t like calling attention to errors, but nothing starts a vacation off quite like finding out at 11pm that your flight scheduled for 6am the next morning was changed to 8am, with no communication from the airline that anything was changed. Having booked our flights in March, and received only confirmation emails prior to a missed “Pre-Flight” email delivered at 8am, 24-hours before the take-off time, we were shocked to say the least when we found our flights had changed. I noted the Pre-Flight email was missed – we fortunately found out that the other party in our travel group was flying out at a different time, despite our travel being booked originally for the same flight set.

I had no plans to check-in prior to the flights as we had to check our bags, but considering the surprise from the change in flight times of our travel partners, I decided to click on the Pre-Flight email’s call-to-action (CTA) to check-in online, at least to see if the different flight time was correct. Uh oh again – the confirmation number wouldn’t pull up – no information found. WTF? Exactly, wtf.

After some trial and error, and several people attempting to sort through the confusion, we found that when loaded from the email CTA, there were two spaces at the end of the referenced confirmation number causing their site to load invalid information. So, we could load our itinerary. Now we’re getting somewhere. Now we’re getting to the big uh oh.

We’re about to start off our vacation on a really bad foot – our seat selection had been changed: myself, my wife, and my two young children were on three separate rows, with one pair of seats and two singles. Now, in many cases this might not be a problem, but when traveling with a five-year old and a three-year old… yeah, not going to work.

Of course, we were already on the phone with the airline trying to sort through this mess, and inquired about the seats – what can be done to move them around, to reclaim our four-in-a-row selected configuration. The answer? Nothing, it’s a full flight (of course, less than twelve hours until take off). Fortunately, we were able to get our seats rearranged at the counter when we checked-in and checked our bags – some resolution, small steps. So, that brings another question: is the flight full? Or not? Hmm…

 

Quite the introduction for today’s insight… sorry for the rant. But what I’m heading towards is that customer service is (should be) the center of all our efforts, at every level, of every organization. What are we without customers? We cannot be so vain that we let any other element of the business operation or reach to overpower our desire, our need to accommodate our customers. Without our customers we are worthless, we are nothing, we will cease to exist. “Customer-centricity” is a big catch phrase right these days, a “new focus” of a large number of organizations. This in itself is a shame – customer centricity should have always been a primary focus of all organizations, as serving customers in one form or another is the sole purpose of any organization. Everything we do must be centered around better serving them, as that will create, and compound, our potential for success.

 

In this case, the airline committed several critical failures in the initial stages of our customer journey:

  • They changed our itinerary, but did not inform us. Had we found out after getting to the airport at 4:30am, after waking ourselves and our children up at 3am, we would have been “just a bit” more frustrated, to say the least.
  • They changed our seat arrangements as part of the change in itinerary, which could have lead to a very long flight, for everyone on the flight.
  • No automated email program was in place, or it was unsuccessful in this case, to notify passengers of updates to their itinerary.
  • An oversight, or lack, of ongoing QA of their automated “Pre-Flight” email program, possibly not testing with live customer data and clicking all links in the emails, created an error in referencing customer flight information, allowing their primary CTA to load an error page.

The result from this sequence of customer service faux pas is a significant gap between expectations of service and reality of service. Fortunately, my family enjoyed a smooth and easy set of flights, and have been enjoying our vacation since. Plus, we have a few good lessons on customer service, including identification of a couple critical components of an automated email program which are critical to the successful and efficient customer service by an airline.

 

 

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