Customer Disservice

airplane

“Hi. Welcome to Delta, KLM, and Air France.” The call started so well. A friendly female electronic voice asking me to speak prompts into the phone regarding the nature of my call. She sounds like a Lorraine to me.

“Are you a Sky Miles member?” No.

“All right. From here, you can say ‘check flight status’, ‘review my reservations’, or ‘representative’. Which would you like?’” Representative.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you. Would you—“ Representative.

“I’m sorry, I still didn’t understand you. Would you—“ Representative!

“Okay. I’ll connect you to a representative. But to be sure I get you to the right person, I’ll just need a bit more information first. Which of these are you calling to do? Say ‘Shop for a flight’, ‘discuss my existing reservation’, or ‘do something else’.” Something else.

“You’re calling about ‘something else’, is that right?” Yes.

“Are you calling about travel within the 50 United States, Puerto Rico, or the US Virgin Islands?” Yes.

“Okay, let me connect you to a Delta representative. One moment please. So you know, your call may be recorded for quality assurance. To help improve your experience, would you like to take a one minute survey at the end of this call?” No.

“Okay. Just a moment.” After a few clicking noises, a different woman’s voice speaks. “Thank you for calling. All of our representatives are assisting other callers. Rather than wait on hold, we can call you back when it’s your turn between 25 and 40 minutes from now. You will not lose your place in line if you choose to use this service. To receive a call back, press 1.” I enter my phone number and record my name, then wait for 25 to 40 minutes for a call back.

Displeased woman on phone

When Christina from Delta Airlines calls me back, I can hear in her voice that she has had a long day and has made a lot of call-backs. I make an extra effort to be friendly, but it does nothing to cheer her mood. She introduces herself and asks me to explain the reason I am calling. I explain to Christina that I had made a reservation online a few days before and that I made a small mistake. I meant to book my departing flight for November 9 and my returning flight for November 17, but that I had just noticed that the departing flight was for October 9. I needed to change it to November 9.

After taking my confirmation number and looking up the flight, Christina, sounding bored and disinterested, asks me to hold, then comes back on the line. “Chad, to switch your flight to the right day, that will be a total charge of $251.”

My brow furrows. “Excuse me?”

“I said to change your flight, it will cost $251. That is a $200 change fee, and $51 for the difference in prices.”

“What are you talking about?” I do my best to keep my voice calm. “I clicked one wrong day. I am giving you more than three months notice that I need a change. The entire flight, round trip, cost me $200. And now you want to charge me double that, plus 50, to change one day?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You want me to pay $451 for a flight that cost me $200?”

“Yes, sir.”

I breathe out slowly. “Christina, look, you can understand my frustration here, right?”

“Chad, I didn’t make this error, nor did my company. This was a user error. You had 24 hours to make changes, and you didn’t. So yes, it will be $251.”

“I clicked a wrong button. I am not blaming you. But I will not pay that fee to make one change. I could buy another flight for less than that.”

“That’s your choice, sir.”

Okay, I’m angry now. I grip my leg and squeeze and steady my breathing. “Christina, I would like to talk to your supervisor, please.”

“Okay. One moment.”

A second’s pause, then click. A dial tone. She hung up on me! Wait did she just hang up on me? She hung up on me! Oh, there’s going to be hell to pay. I furiously re-dial the number for Delta Airlines.

aggy

“Hi. Welcome to Delta, KLM, and Air France. Are you a Sky Miles member?” No.

“All right. From here, you can say ‘check flight status’, ‘review my reservations’, or ‘representative’. Which would you like?’” Check flight status.

“I can help you review your itinerary or select your seat. Are you calling for either of those reasons?” No.

“Are you calling about travel within the 50 United States, Puerto Rico, or the US Virgin Islands?” Yes.

“Okay. I can pull up your reservation using your six-character confirmation number. Go ahead and say that number now, like P-as-in-Paul, M-as-in-Mary, 7, Q, 6, 4. Or say, I don’t know it.” C12ZRT.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you. Please say your reservation number.” C-as-in-Cat, 1, 2, Z-as-in-Zebra, R-as-in-Red, T-as-in-Turtle.

“I’m sorry, I still didn’t understand you. Please say your reservation number.” C! 1, 2. Z! R! T!

“I’m sorry, I still didn’t understand you. Let me connect you with a representative. One moment please. So you know, your call may be recorded for quality assurance. To help improve your experience, would you like to take a one minute survey at the end of this call?” NO!

“Okay. Just a moment.” After a few clicking noises, a different woman’s voice speaks. “Thank you for calling. All of our representatives are assisting other callers. Rather than wait on hold, we can call you back when it’s your turn between 25 and 40 minutes from now. You will not lose your place in line if you choose to use this service. To receive a call back, press 1.”

416991834_934078da8e_b

I wait another half an hour and wonder what happened to customer service in my country. I have a fake argument with Christina in my head, and I wonder what my grandpa would think of customer service nowadays if he were still alive. I furiously wash some dishes. In time, I get a call back from Shawn. Where Christina sounded bored, Shawn sounds aloof. Maybe he’s playing Candy Crush on his computer while he talks to me, because I have to repeat the information three times. I explain that I have now spent 90 minutes on this call, and that I’d been hung up on. I explain the simple change I needed to make. He puts me on hold for three full minutes before returning and telling me that will cost $251 to make the change. I don’t argue. I ask for his supervisor. And he hangs up on me. He hangs up on me! Again! I feel like I’m in junior high school!

I literally scream at the ceiling and make my third call. There is hell to pay this time. I’m a man on a crusade. I’m a Viking warrior about to pillage their entire village of ridiculous policies and bad customer service. Hang up on me, will they? That electronic recording will be the first to feel my wrath. Lorraine, don’t even try to mess with me.

airport-delay

“Hi. Welcome to Delta, KLM, and Air France. Are you a—“ REPRESENTATIVE!

“All right. From here, you can say—“ REPRESENTATIVE!

“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you. Would you—“ REP! RE! SENT! TATIVE!

“I’m sorry, I still didn’t understand you. Would you—“ REPRESENTATIVE! GOD-DAMN IT! REPRESENTATIVE!

“Okay. I’ll connect you to a representative. But to be sure–“ AAAGH!

“You’re calling about ‘something else’, is that right?” AAAAAGH! REPSRENTATIVE! NOW!

“Are you calling about travel within the 50 United States, Puerto Rico, or the US Virgin Islands?” My nostrils flare into the phone. This has to be some sort of cosmic joke. Lorraine seems to sense that I am beyond my capacity, and decides to let me get by without answering this one.

“Okay, let me connect you to a Delta representative. One moment please. So you know, your call may be recorded for quality assurance. To help improve your experience, would you like to take a one minute survey at the end of this call?” No. No. No. No. No. No. No. NO!

I go through the process of entering my phone number again. Some Viking warrior I am, I have to wait for a call back. I want to take an axe to their computer system. Dynamite would also be effective. The cruel gods of Delta, KLM, and Air France play one last little joke on me and increase my call-back wait time to 35 to 50 minutes this time. And they wait until minute 49 to call back.

When Pearl calls back, my fury has changed from a loud violent fist-clenching energy to a cold and simmering boil. I explain the last two hours of my life with a tone that conveys an extreme frustration, a strong backbone, and a subtext that lets her know that if so much as one more feather falls on this precariously strained scale, then I’m about ready to drop an atom bomb.

And then Pearl shocks me beyond belief. Is this happening? Are there still people like this out in the world? “Wow, Chad,” she says. “I’m really sorry for how you have been treated. I apologize on behalf of my coworkers. That is terrible customer service.”

My fury is gone, like a balloon pricked with a needle, and I sit back on the couch, exhausted. Pearl assures me that she is going to help me out. She looks up my flight. Then, within seconds, she gets permission from her supervisor to change the dates on the flight with zero charge to me. She apologizes again. I thank her, ask to speak to her supervisor, and make sure to give Pearl a glowing recommendation. “She is amazing!” I say. “Give her a raise!” I say. The supervisor laughs and promises to make sure my recommendations make it to her file.

Reflecting on this overall experience, I can’t help but think how large the impact we have on others in our day to day interactions can be. Neither Christina or Shawn wrote that ridiculous policy, nor did either of them set out to ruin my day. But in the course of their lack of interest in my situation, or in their need to be catty or right, they both treated me terribly. They even hung up on me. Pearl, however, spent a few seconds to be empathetic and kind and it made the rest of my day better. How easy is it to brighten the day of someone around us with just a little bit of kindness or customer service?

But don’t get me wrong, I still don’t plan on flying Delta again. Nobody should have to work that hard to correct such a simple mistake. What has the world come to?

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