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AirlineBy James Hindes, Director at Bluewolf.

Customer engagement is critical—so critical that nearly 90% of CEOs rank customer engagement as their primary initiative. In an era where companies cannot sustain the 3x investment required to attract new business, providing consistent (and positive) customer experiences is paramount. If your company isn’t thinking about the ROI in conjunction with every customer interaction, now is the time to start. There’s a real cost to not understanding these moments.

A good friend of mine – a frequent international traveler whom I’ll call Jon – recently posted on Facebook about a customer service experience with a major airline call center. He was informed at the beginning of the call that his wait time would be 2.5 hours, but he needed their help so he buckled down for the wait. Hours later, an agent answered and resolved his problem. Directly following that conversation he received the automated survey, “Would you or would you not hire the person you just spoke with at [Airline]?”

Jon was taken aback. He turned to social media to share this experience. Here’s what he posted to his Facebook timeline:

I entered a state of shock...and then hung up. Everyone knows that big corporations sometimes think of their employees as just meat, as a number, a head always availed to the chopping block, but I had never seen or heard of a corporation making this sentiment transparent to the public in this sort of way. [Airline] wants to make me feel responsible for the fate of the customer service agent, as if to absolve itself of the responsibility…

Every employee must be enabled to own any customer interaction. Empowering agents with the right technology and processes, the right knowledge, and right level of motivation delivers a premium experience. Clearly the airline employee in this interaction was powerless to truly engage the customer. So in this situation, what could be different?

Treat customers like people, not transactions:

This survey question was terrible because it treated the interaction as a transaction. This stems from a poor usage of automated service technology and an oversight in customer experience management. Imagine if the airline had their agents personally ask the customer after all calls, “Have I done everything possible on this call to answer and resolve your question?" The customer would have felt personally addressed rather than systematically surveyed. At Bluewolf, we believe that technology is an enabler, not the end-game. Surrounding every investment in technology must be a comprehensive strategy for customer experience and internal adoption.

Ask the right questions: 

Is your survey asking questions about the service, the team, the company, or the employee? If a survey about an employee’s performance is mismatched with the moment of the survey, the company is setting the employee up for failure. If an organization’s goal is to enable its employees for good feedback about their performance, it must isolate these questions from the things its employees cannot control.

Know what your customers want before they do:

Think how empowering it would be for the agent – and how different the moment would have been for the customer – if the agent thanked the customer for waiting with a free drink, a snack, or a movie rental for their next flight? Knowledge about your customers informs proactive engagement and innovation. Organizations can identify which small reparations would best defuse poor customer experiences. For instance, in this situation the airline could run a survey to collect flyer preferences. They could ask something like, “In the occurrence of a poor customer experience, which would you rather receive: A) Drink voucher B) Priority boarding C) Free snack, etc.”). A small and targeted “thank you” could go a long way for this customer.

Jon was offended by the nature and timing of the airline’s question, and he will direct his valuable travel dollars elsewhere going forward. He also posted his story on Facebook to spread the word to a couple hundred friends. If the airline made a few simple changes for their agents to have full control over customer interactions, I would never have known (and neither would you).

See how innovative organizations are building top-notch Customer Service departments in Bluewolf’s guide, Empower Your Agents to Engage Your Customers.

Do you have suggestions on ways that this customer experience could be improved? Leave a comment below and start a conversation.

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About Bluewolf

NewVoiceMedia partner Bluewolf is a global business consulting firm. Companies across the world choose Bluewolf to help them engage their customers and drive more sales. As the first global business consulting firm born in the cloud, Bluewolf’s strategic consulting, implementation, training, and cloud management services drive business outcomes in weeks, not years.

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