The United States Postal Service has long had a reputation for long lines and bad customer service, leading some consumers to avoid the post office at all costs. Unfortunately, some private companies also have a reputation for poor service and policies that work against consumers instead of for them. A recent survey shows that American consumers feel that many companies in the airline industry provide bad customer service.
Hugo Martin of the Los Angeles Times reports the results of a survey of approximately seventy thousand consumers. The airline industry was one of the worst industries for customer service, trailing only Internet service providers and subscription television companies. The survey, called the American Customer Satisfaction Index, is a benchmarking tool used by customer service professionals all over the country. Among the concerns cited by airline passengers were bad customer service, extra fees for baggage and other services, and crowded flights.
Lost baggage is a big problem for airline customers, but the lack of assistance in finding those lost bags is the real issue. Some airlines refuse to take lost-luggage reports over the telephone, so travelers are forced to spend time in long airport lines just to fill out the required paperwork. Some airlines will deliver lost luggage for free, but others force travelers to pick up the luggage or pay steep fees for delivery to their destinations. American Airlines no longer accepts complaints by telephone, and United got rid of its customer service telephone number at some point. The airlines that still provide support via telephone seem to make it as difficult as possible for customers to find the right contact information.
Some airlines have a bigger problem with bad customer service than others, as evidenced by the results of the Airline Quality Ratings Report for 2012. U.S. News & World Report published a list they titled "America's Meanest Airlines" based on the results of this report. United Airlines took the top spot with a score of -1.45. This score was based on United's high rate of complaints for 2011, which averaged out to 2.21 complaints for every 100,000 passengers. From 2010 to 2011, Continental Airlines experienced a jump in customer complaints, helping the company land the second-lowest score on the list. American Airlines, US Airways, Southwest Airlines, and Delta rounded out the top six. For regional airlines, American Eagle Airlines, Mesa Air, Atlantic Southeast Airlines, and SkyWest Airlines topped the list.
As a customer service professional, you must do everything in your power to prevent customers from feeling they are receiving bad customer service from your company. The airlines that received poor reviews and an increased number of complaints need to do more to improve customer service and make their customers feel valued. Of course, it is probably not possible to completely eliminate all service issues, as airline schedules do depend on weather conditions and other factors outside the control of company executives and service professionals; however, listening to customers and understanding their needs can go a long way toward making them feel they have received good treatment instead of bad customer service.
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