13 March 2006

What ever happened to customer service?

I don't rant that much.

OK...I rant a lot. But, only when it is justified. Usually, the justification that I need comes in the form of dealing with morons (which, around the office, are affectionately called "mo-mo's").

One such mo-mo was encountered this week while trying to contact Continental Airlines (CO) customer service department. I think that I know a little bit about the ins and outs of traveling, but every now and again, I need some clarification on the airlines' bizarre rules and procedures. This is especially true when I change my "loyalty" (think of a stiff breeze) from one airline to another. I tend to know the rules that I need to know - and those tend to be the ones that I utilize most frequently.

I had the recent opportunity to obtain Gold Elite status with Northwest Airlines (NW). Without getting into a lot of minutiae over airline alliances, status, upgrades and the like, just know that I needed to know how my status would help me get an upgrade or elite seating assignments with CO. I should point out that I knew that my status WOULD get these benefits, I just wasn't sure how.

I thought this email to CO's customer service department would help elucidate things for me, just a little:

I purchased, this evening, a ticket from MCO-IAH on 3/30/06 and returning on 4/4/06. The Continental Confirmation Number is XXXXXX.

I am a (newly minted) Gold Elite member of NW WorldPerks (#100000000). I was informed by Northwest WorldPerks' customer service line that I would be eligible to upgrade to First Class, based on availability, and that I would be able to secure elite seating on Continental Airlines flights. I entered my WP number into the reservation, but I was not allowed to select elite seating on the seating chart.

So, my questions are, (a) Am I allowed access to elite seating on CO flights; and if so, how do I secure my choice of seat; and (b) does CO recognize my status level automatically and queue my upgrade request.

Lastly, can you also tell me in what order priority is determined for awarding elite upgrades? I understand that Platinum elites would get access ahead of Gold elites, but do all CO OnePass elites get access ahead of all WorldPerks elites (i.e. CO Plat, CO Gold, CO, Silv, NW Plat, NW Gold, NW Silv) or is it based on status within the respective programs (i.e. CO Plat, NW Plat, CO Gold, NW Gold, CO Silv, NW Silv)?

Thanks for all of your help. I look forward to flying with Continental soon.

Best regards,
The Traveling Man

Pretty clear what I am asking, right? I think so. I think that someone who works in the customer service department of an airline's frequent flier program would think so. Well......not so much.

Thank you for contacting the OnePass Service Center.

OnePass offers a promotion that matches the elite status of some other airline frequent flyer programs with an equivalent level in the OnePass Elite program. The airline you are inquiring about is not eligible to participate in the match program.

Ange Smith
OnePass Service Center
WHAT? Where on earth did ol' Ange think that I was asking about a status match to CO?

I am not so naive to think that canned email responses are not used -- and, actually, are probably appropriate in many situations. I use them myself because I often get asked the same questions over and over again in my job. However, I don't think that this person even read my email. I guess that they might have skimmed it, or simply sent it through an email filter that looks for keywords and this is the response that was shot out.

Technology should be used to ENHANCE your customer service, not replace it. The only impression that I got after dealing with CO here was that there customer service department is nothing short of shoddy.

Needless to say, I was pretty peeved. The chances of me flying with CO are pretty remote unless I have to anyway, but this is nothing that would make me want to fly them more.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I sent a reply to this email telling them that my question was not answered, and they responded back with an apology and the correct answer to my original questions. However, there should be no need to take that extra step.

1 comment:

Bobby Brown said...

The Travelin'Man
My name is Bobby Brown. I used to work for Braniff Airlines until the bankrupt ended our work.
My airline blood boils whenever I see or hear anything about the Airlines doing anything STUPID.
My current blood boiling, is about Continental Airlines using RE-TREAD TIRES on Continental Express.
I have been trying to spread this information around as much as possible, because I believe the SAFETY OF EVERY PERSON ONBOARD, is at jeopardy.
I have contacted I-F-A-L-P-A and TV stations, trying to get someone with authority, or boldness, to help STOP USE OF RE-TREAD TIRES ON AIRPLANES.
Please check my blog for the letter I am trying to spread around.
http://come-go-with-me.blogspot.com/2006/05/re-tread-tires-on-airline-planes.html

Your blog sounds like you are a concerned person about airlines.