Airline Customer Service

I have met very few people that enjoy the customer service experience associated with flying. A few companies like Southwest and JetBlue stand out from the crowd, but in general (and even with these airlines that are supposed to be “better”), flying is a terrible experience. Airlines try to get over on you and the government doesn’t make things easier either.

So how could airlines improve their customer service? A few suggestions from me (though many airlines may already be doing this):

Hire friendly people.
I think this is the number one most important thing that airlines should do. If they hire friendly people (for those who interact with customers) for every part of the experience that they can control (flight attendants, ticket agents, reservation people, etc.), it’ll make a huge difference in the overall experience. As always, they should remember to smile! Friendly people can make a negative experience a lot better.

Improve the web sites.
Airline web sites seem to be terrible. I’ve dealt with a few different ones in the past (and recently) and they are bad. They lack consisitency, it’s very hard to find the place you want, and finding a page to explain terms and how things work is even harder. Airlines need to add live chat agents, lots of helpful in-page tips/information, and more. Use bigger fonts, tables, pictures, etc. – all things that help make the site and the experience better.

In our interview with him, Joe Kraus of JotSpot (now Google), said that two elements that are extremely important in business are visual design and customer service. He’s right. You need a well designed product/service and a great team supporting it for the best experience.

Don’t hide things.
Airlines have their little games with upgrades, how to do best in certain scenarios, and all of that. They also charge you if you call them to make a reservation. If they got rid of things like that, I think customers would have more trust in the airlines. Trust is always a good way to help an experience and a customer relationship.

Good magazines.
It’s a small thing, but good magazines in seats would always be nice. The airlines can probably get sample copies from the various publishers and have them in the planes at little to no cost. Other small things that could make a difference and maybe not to add extra cost are different types of foods (maybe a big discount to the airline?), more programming choices for in-flight entertainment, and similar little addons and improvements.

Help people.
I don’t why an airline hasn’t bought a site like Citysearch yet – it makes sense to me. They should encourage people to travel to various destinations and should help them along the way. Airlines should provide guides about the places people are going (if I’m flying to San Francisco, it’d be cool to have a “Experience San Francisco” guide in my seat), how to deal with airport security, and similar things. That information should be available to me before, during, and after my trip. Again, just a little thing that can make a nice difference.

Learn from JetBlue.
JetBlue had some serious customer service problems not too long ago. I wrote a post about what they could have done to make the experience better. While the advice mainly applies to more crisis orientated and not day to day situations, I think it’s useful nonetheless.

Airlines are in a unique position. They really have to watch about how much money they spend and there are a lot of restrictions on what they can do. What would you do?

Over the next few months, I’ll be flying on three separate airlines. I’ll report back about how the customer service experience was with each one. I’m also working on arranging an interview with a few airlines.

Did any customer service people ever watch the show Airline on A&E? It was interesting from a customer service perspective I thought.

4 Responses to “Airline Customer Service”

  1. Express Lane for 5/30/2007 | - thoughts on the retail industry, visual merchandising, customer service, and good design said:

    May 30, 07 at 11:05 pm

    […] service, return policies, nordstrom, kohls, airline industry, united airlines Permalink & Trackback RelatedPosts: […]

  2. Service Untitled » Airline Customer Service - Part 1 - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Jun 11, 07 at 11:48 pm

    […] While I’m writing this, I am sitting in seat 7C on Frontier Airlines. I’ve already suggested how I think airlines can improve their customer service, so how do these companies actually do? Overall, Frontier Airlines hasn’t been that bad. The staff has been pretty friendly, the seat is okay, and the overall airport experience was as good as it could have been (quick check-in, no security line). Oh, and the plane was on time and clean. Based on this experience, and especially compared to other flying experiences, there isn’t that much to complain about. […]

  3. Bill said:

    Jul 17, 08 at 4:41 pm

    In this day and age of airline problems… customer service should be KING… when it isn’t it sure makes me think about EVER traveling with that airline again. I had a nightmare experience with WestJet in Canada… they didn’t care…and you know what I don’t care if they survive as an airline now either. I will never fly them again.

    Details on my blog.

  4. Express Lane for 5/30/2007 — on No Turn On Red | Blogging about the retail industry, e-commerce development, social media and how retailers can better connect with their customers said:

    Aug 17, 10 at 11:39 pm

    […] While The Airline Hub is reporting on a change in United’s policy on delayed flights, maybe United should take a look at Service Untitled’s thoughts on ways airlines could improve customer service. […]