American Eliminates Phone Customer Relations

Via JonNYC at Traveling Better, it looks like American Airlines has recently eliminated customer relations by phone. The customer relations phone number was recently taken off the website, and apparently they’re increasing the staffing for customer relations by email.

Ultimately eliminating options isn’t good, though I can’t say I’ve ever phoned customer relations at any airline or hotel chain. If I have a compliment or complaint I always prefer email:

  • I absolutely hate the phone, and don’t use it unless I have to
  • It allows me to gather my thoughts and think about what I really want to say
  • It avoids miscommunication about what happened, and leaves an electronic trail
  • I kind of feel bad for the people that worked the phones at customer relations. I can’t imagine having to be so empathetic all day every day (it’s easier to fake it by email, presumably). šŸ˜‰

For what it’s worth, in my experience American does a great job with prioritizing Executive Platinum emails, and the few times I’ve provided feedback (mostly compliments for good crews), I’ve received a response within a day or so.

I also assume this doesn’t change the odds of them calling you. In other words, if you have a serious complaint they may very well call you to discuss and apologize.

I’m curious, does anyone prefer phoning customer relations rather than emailing? Are you sad to see the ability to call customer relations at American go away?

Comments

  1. Sometimes it can be helpful. I used to have a EC261 case with American. American CS agreed to pay me $800 voucher; however, they never sent me the actual voucher email. I emailed a few reminders but no reply at all. I finally decided to give them a call and received the voucher within a few minutes after the call.

  2. Ben may not like to use the phone, but phone customer service lines are really the only way for a person with a serious issue to be guaranteed interaction with a real person. It would be one thing if airlines were companies that excelled at customer service, but they are not.

    Email/social media-only channels gives the airline the discretion not to respond or to blow you off without even having to listen to you. Companies that utilize it rarely allow you to maintain continuity with the same staffer across multiple interactions. It puts the pace and nature of the interactions entirely within the airline’s control.

    That AA is good about responding to Exec Platinums is no indication of their responsiveness to non-elite customers or low level elites. Email is inefficient by its very nature and add in slow or non-responsiveness and you have a recipe to deprive more and more customers of engagement.

  3. You mean I missed my chance to have phone sex with American Airlines? Damn. Always late to the party!

  4. It’s too easy for your email to disappear down a hole. At least if you call, you definitively know someone heard what you had to say. I prefer both – email first, then if no response, I follow up with a phone call.

  5. While emails it’s now the way of getting things across in all aspects, every now and then I believe the interaction via phone is always important to get the point across and avoid misunderstandings since sometimes emails can be confusing. I believe the phone interaction should have been kept! But let’s see how this works.

  6. What exactly is customer relations? Is it AAdvantage customer service? Or is it a different department.

    I think its terrible to eliminate ANY phone contact. I think a lot of companies have found that outsourcing and trying to force people to email ultimately leads to a bad customer experience. And many companies are bringing outsourced call centers back.

    Email is great for many things, but when you need a fast resolution, or it’s a complicated situation, talking on the phone is MUCH easier and far more efficient.

    As an aside, I shudder to think what the business world will look as younger folks “absolutely hate the phone, and donā€™t use it unless I have to” get older. Communication, either face to face or on the phone, is a skill that likely won’t go away. And it’s important people learn how to do it properly.

  7. I dont like this because sometimes when they strand you, you cant email — no cell service, limited battery, or no smart phone for older people. Sometimes you want to talk to someone. This is NOT good!

  8. @ rebecca — To clarify, when you have a problem during a trip you’ll want to call reservations. They can help you then and there, and that’s not changing. Customer relations helps with post-travel issues.

  9. I’m of two camps on this one. While I prefer the interaction of voice communication, sadly the number of reps whose English borders on unintelligible answer the call especially between the hours of midnite and 6 am weekdays and virtually all weekends.

    I quite often have to ask to be connected to the Platinum desk to get my issues resolved. on the other hand, the problem with email is that if they choose to ignore you, or your miles down on the list, it could take days for an answer plus I’ve noticed that some airlines, banks, etc.send emails that have a ”do not reply” mailbox preventing you from responding.

  10. If an issue is unresolved or you would like to add details in order to help your case, you cannot reply to the email message AA Customer Relations sent. Your only option is to create another email on AA.com. In my case, the representative ignored the updated details when they saw that the issue was already discussed. This is a step backwards.

  11. Is this an “enhancement” to align AA with US Airways policies? When I had a problem with US Airways, I had to fill out an online form as regular customer service reps couldn’t do anything. It was quite frustrating that CSRs aren’t empowered to address customer complaints.

    However, US service people did respond fairly quickly to the online form and resolved the situation.

  12. Thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention in your outstanding blog Mr.Lucky Sir!
    If I were to rewrite the title of your post I might just add American
    quietly and without notice eliminates phone contact directly with Consumer Relations
    However this is not entirely true as I understand it or at least in my own experience as I was able to reach them just with much added frustration.
    It’s really about creating another step in process to handle complaints/issues suggestions and cutting down phone volume as American goes on to become the behemoth its envisioned to be going forward
    Its making me nervous quiet frankly and I believe I speak for many that many of us are holding our collective breath for a hopeful positive outcome! With no negative changes to their fantastic program or worsening in their customer service levels throughout the system.

    Because AA has communicated the new CR process so poorly many are confused including front line agents & customers. I was deeply disappointed recently trying to clear up a multitude of issues over a short period of time while on the road for a month.
    Rcently AA lost my luggage 3 times in a period of two weeks and had a partner ticket ticketed incorrectly so my ticket was void at check in to travel on Cathay Pacific from SYD to Hong Kong.

    What the process is now apparently is that you must file any issue/comments by email at which point your are issued a reference/case number
    Then can correspond by email should you prefer or request a person to speak with once a case number has been assigned in which you can call back with the reference number to initiate.
    Some issues are just to long and complicated and writing confuses some folks both in sharing the facts initially or directly with AA especially if its a complicated case

    Your professional writing life is all about being a good communicator Ben and you are indeed a prolific detailed interesting writer.
    Unfortunately its not that’s simple for many others that don’t have your writing and communication skills & talent or just happen to be old school.
    Thankfully as complicated as the system has become the important thing here is that you still can get through with some added effort.At least for today šŸ™‚
    Keep up the fine contributions up my good man!

    Cheers 777 Global Mile Hound
    Hyatt Gold Passport Ambassador
    Flyertalk.com

  13. Big thumbs-down from me — I want to talk to a human, preferably one which speaks English. While misunderstandings can happen over the phone, anything complicated which requires interaction between the CSR and customer requires a series of e-mail volleys which will invariably take days to resolve issues instead of a few minutes.

    I’m with the others — I’ve NEVER had e-mail-only customer service be more helpful than phone.

  14. When time is not of the essence, email usually suffices. When time is of the essence, sometimes talking to a human will get things done faster, especially when some decisions need to be made during the call. I can’t remember the last time I called a customer service line for anything but I know when I did it would have been for immediate action.

    Now sometimes you can get a “live” person online through text chat which can be equally effective. It also eliminates the pregnant pauses that can occur with voice calling.

    Most customer service lines that I have called usually including a voice disclaimer of something to this effect “this call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes” recording a call can go both ways. If it is truly truly important that I retain a record of the call I will simply open the mic on my laptop and start recording from my mobile phone when I start talking.

  15. The US dbaAA spiral continues. No way you can put a positive spin on this.

    It’s a cut. And it’s a cut designed to distance from the consumer.

  16. This has been going on for months. However, four days ago they implemented a new internal policy whereby AAdvantage reps can no longer call Customer Relations.

    Emailing CR has not been possible for a long time.

    We are now limited only to filling out the ridiculous 1500 character form on aa.com. If you have an extremely complex issue that has gone back-and-forth with American, this process makes the dialogue virtually impossible.

  17. This is a garbage move.

    Any forward thinking company is going to create as many inbound means of customer communication as possible. Any intelligent company wants to receive feedback in the most convenient way for the customer, not the company.

    American, and any other company that pulls this, is saying “I don’t care if you want to communicate verbally. No, really, I DON’T CARE. Now go email me!” Which isn’t a very helpful message to send to your paying customers.

  18. @ Louis agree you hit the nail on the head
    Well said it curtails or stops dialogue unless a really simple issue. The inability to get CR on the phone has clearly been going on longer than 4 days
    as American quietly announced nothing of the change
    I expect more of this as American becomes the next United or worse Delta?
    Hopefully that will never happen but the move is clearly anti consumer and a way to sweep away or at the very least customer service. Its a double standard would they only allow ticket purchases online or by email?
    Of course not. Off topic and interesting to note American Express did the same thing and I personally have responded by moving tens of thousands in spending away to other credit card partners

  19. I read about this yesterday, and thought it was an April Fools joke. Bad move on the part of American. I’ve emailed them before (first) instead of calling, and it’s usually many weeks to get a response. I did get a response eventually, in all cases, but it took a long time. Hopefully if they’re increasing the staffing on their email support they can decrease the wait time to a few days or less in the future.

  20. Still waiting on a response for a refund 3 months later. In the end I disputed the charge.

  21. So what e-mail should EXP use? I’ve never gotten any response from e-mail queries (improperly credited paid F on AS being credited to AA) despite using the e-mail address provided by EXP CS. šŸ™‚

  22. In their defense, I’ve used the email system before and they respond very quickly. Twice they called me after getting my email.

  23. @ Nicholas Bedworth — Just go through the online customer relations form, and when you indicate your status is Executive Platinum you’ll be put at the front of the queue.

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