On Wednesday I wrote about a situation I encountered while trying to change an American ticket, which is just the latest example of how low American’s customer service has sunk. This is especially true for their Executive Platinum members, as they used to have the best top tier customer service of any airline. If you haven’t yet read the previous post I’d recommend reading that first, though to very briefly summarize:
- My dad and I were supposed to go to Europe together, though his American flight was canceled due to Hurricane Irma
- Because of the cancelation the trip wouldn’t work anymore, so they refunded his ticket, and the phone agent agreed to let me use my ticket balance towards another reservation, even though my flight hadn’t been canceled (this seemed like a fair compromise since we were heading to the same destination, and I wasn’t going to take the trip without him)
- I phoned up American at a later point to use that ticket credit, and the (friendly) agent told me there was no note in the record indicating any sort of a waiver
- Rather than recognizing the situation and what I was promised, she said there was nothing she could do, and that I was basically out of luck
If the initial agent had said “the rules are the rules and we can’t let you use the ticket amount towards a future reservation,” I would have ultimately been fine with that, even though it would have left a sour taste in my mouth. However, I have a real issue with an agent promising that he was documenting my record, me hearing him type for an extended period of time, and then later being told by another agent that this never happened.
Well, there’s a follow-up to this story — two different people from American customer relations reached out to me a day later, and the reservations agent who denied me the change reached out two days later to apologize and explain the mistake.
Yes, clearly they reached out because I’m a blogger…
Before I explain what happened, let me acknowledge that clearly they reached out to me because I’m a blogger. I often get accused of getting special treatment for being a blogger, whether it’s a suite upgrade at a hotel or what not. More often than not I don’t get special treatment, and it just comes down to my status.
However, clearly this is a case where someone saw my blog post and decided to reach out. After all, otherwise they wouldn’t have known about my displeasure with the situation. So while it makes me sad that not everyone would probably get this “treatment,” I’ll certainly use these situations to share my feedback in hopes of at least having things changed for the better.
I should also note that in situations like these, I make a point of turning down any sort of compensation or anything (not that I was offered compensation here). The only thing I hope to get out of this stuff is being able to report back to you guys on what happened.
American customers relations called me
Thursday afternoon I was sitting in American’s Flagship First Dining at JFK and got a voicemail from someone at American customer relations asking me to call her back. I won’t share the full content of the discussion, mainly because I want to be accurate and don’t want to misquote her.
She was a delight — as you’d expect from someone who works in customer relations — and apologized profusely for the situation. The gist of her message was as follows:
- American has gone through a huge merger, and they’re working on trying to create as consistent of an experience across the board as possible, realizing that they could be doing better
- As part of the merger and trying to align policies, departments have become policy driven, perhaps even to a fault, and it’s something American is looking at
- In 2017, every employee will go through training to synchronize policies and make sure everyone is on the same page
- She urged me to contact customer relations in the future when I have a situation like this, because unlike the Executive Platinum desk, “customer relations can work in the grey area”
I appreciated what she was saying, and of course she was doing her job to the best of her ability and truly made me feel like she and American cared. Unfortunately I know that’s not the case. Does American actually care about having a consistent experience across the board? If so, where are the power ports on the ex-US Airways Airbus aircraft, which make up a large portion of the domestic fleet?
But the truth is that I’m not sure I can blame American for not caring much about individual customers. They’re the world’s largest airline, and they’re successful in spite of having instituted customer unfriendly policy after customer unfriendly policy. I’m sad to say, but I’m not sure I’d do things differently if I were Doug Parker. Sure, you might annoy customers here and there for being “policy driven,” but for mega companies with shareholders, caring often doesn’t pay. I know that’s me being a cynic, but this is probably also why I don’t work in the corporate world; I wouldn’t find this kind of stuff fulfilling.
American customer relations called me… again
I had a great conversation with that first representative, and then an hour later I got another call from American customer relations. I’m not sure if they hadn’t communicated internally, but she was calling about the same thing, and emphasized similar talking points. She was happy to hear the previous representative took good care of me, and we left it at that.
The next morning I got a call from a reservations agent
Okay, this is where the story gets interesting. The next morning my phone rings from a number that I recognize to be American Airlines reservations, so I answered.
“Hi Mr. Schlappig, it’s ________. You may not remember me, but we spoke a couple of days ago regarding the ticket for the trip you were taking with your father”
Before I go any further, let me again emphasize that on the original phone call she was an absolute delight, and even though she ultimately didn’t help, she came across as competent and friendly, which is a lot more than I can say about many of American’s phone agents.
Now this is the part that’s a bit crazy. My assumption was that customer relations may have gone into the record and looked who I spoke with to figure out what happened, and that they asked her to call me to apologize, or something (which isn’t at all necessary, but…). Nope, that’s not what she claimed.
I don’t want to misquote, but the gist of what she said was that after she got off the call with me she just felt so bad and wanted to take a closer look at what happened. She said she dug deeper into the record, and noticed that the original agent had in fact documented the record. However, he did so in the history of the reservation, but not the history of the actual ticket, so that’s why she didn’t see it.
She said she felt so bad, and I said it was fine, and that customer relations had already reached out.
“If someone promises something they should deliver. One thing we strive for is consistency.”
That sounds great, though it’s a bit ironic when my experience was exactly the opposite. I was promised something, they didn’t deliver, and there was no consistency. American’s “going for great” motto seems appropriate, with the emphasis on “going.”
So she said I could still use that ticket credit towards a future reservation, and apologized again. I appreciated that she reached out, and like I said, she truly seemed incredibly competent compared to most American agents I speak with nowadays.
I appreciate that American reached out here. What’s my takeaway?
- The customer relations agents said to always reach out to them when there’s a “grey area” issue, which I hadn’t previously thought about; I’m not sure I’d actually do this in the future, though it’s an idea I figured I’d pass on, in case anyone else wants to try that or share their experience
- American is aware of how policy driven yet inconsistent their departments are, and they claim it’s something they’re working on
- Personally I don’t think anything will change, and I largely don’t blame them
- I found it especially strange that the reservations agent reached out and made no reference to customer relations, etc., as if she truly felt so bad about this situation and wanted to fix it; who knows, maybe it’s true, but it seems unlikely