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Old Sep 9, 2007, 4:59 AM
AADFW AADFW is offline
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
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Default Top Ten Things AA Can Do To Improve The Customer Experience

Top Ten Things AA Can Do To Improve The Customer Experience

(as seen through the eyes of a consecutive ten-year Advantage Platinum & Million Miler customer)

1.) Significantly shorten the amount of time it takes to change or reissue a non-refundable ticket through Central Reservations (CR). It's a totally common occurrence to spend upwards of an hour or more on hold while CR agents navigate an overly-complex process, including working with Tariff, when the same change takes only seconds if executed by an experienced travel agent. Faster and more efficient telephone service will save time, money, and frustration for both AA and the traveler.

2.) Spend more time and money training your CR and APO font-line employees to achieve greater consistency of information dissemination related to ticketing rules and AA corporate policies. I recently had three different CR agents give me three completely different accounts (presumably, each their own interpretation) of the same exact AA policy related to a specific ticketing issue. Most of the hair I've lost in the past decade is attributable to such episodes. It's become far too common recently.

3.) Weed out the bad apples. In my estimation, about 1% of your front-line workforce used to fall into this category, but that figure has increased dramatically in recent years. It's true you're enjoying record load factors, but as history has demonstrated, that can't last forever. Poor CRM at today's precedence within AA may not lose the company much short-term revenue, but a continuing trend in this direction will ultimately drive your best contingency customers elsewhere over time.

Two recent examples from within the past 90 days:

CR: I spoke with a CR supervisor after a major mistake by an agent caused me to wait an extra 35 minutes on hold. I received no apology, no sympathy, and no fee waiver when requested. There was no sense of caring that my valuable time had just been wasted. In fact, only emotion I detected in the CR supervisor's voice was an edge of hostility. It was clear that she was irritated by my complaint. If I treated my customers the way she treated me that day, I'd be out of business in a hurry.

On Board: I've been on multiple domestic flights in first class where FAs congregated to socialize with each other in the galley for extended periods before and during the flights, all the while ignoring the premium customers. (I was a full-revenue first class passenger on at least one such flight.) First class pre-departure beverage service is a very rare treat these days, even with more than ample idle time to spare before pushback. When it is offered, water and juice is the rule of the day, instead of asking each of the higher-yield premium passengers specifically what we want to drink.

It's very important to point out that there are many fantastic, talented, and caring employees at AA. But the bad apples such as those aforementioned can leave a lasting negative impression too often with your most valuable passengers.

4.) Reward the truly exceptional front-line employees in a more meaningful way. This will serve as an example to others. The "SOS" coupons (or whatever name they've been given these days) are simply not of enough value to interest and motivate the more marginal FAs and gate agents to provide more conscientious service. Consider a "secret shopper" approach, where the employees with the best service are rewarded in a major (read: $$) way and given company-wide recognition. You can weed out the bad apples in the same manner.

5.) Get passengers off grounded planes faster. DFW and ORD are prime candidates where this is concerned. In situations where a gate is occupied and another won't be available for more than 30 minutes, how much would it cost AA to set up a deplaning area (nearby the former DFW interim Eagle terminal, for instance) and bus people to the terminal? How much would it cost to lease an extra two gates in terminal B or E at DFW for the same limited purpose? Even if folks have to wait for their bags, they'd do so in the comfort of the terminal rather than on the plane. Little differences like this can go a very long way in the minds of seasoned frequent fliers.

6.) Bring back telephone-based "executive office" customer service, if only for Platinum and Executive Platinum members. It's unreasonable to limit your most loyal customers to convey their grievances only in writing, with mostly form-letter responses in return. At the very least, leave this robotic process to the commodity customer. Spare those of us who contribute most heavily to your bottom line the aggravation of waiting a week or more for an email when seeking a resolution.

7.) Don't outsource. One of the most admirable attributes of AA has been it's resistance to do so thus far. I cringe every time I am forced to deal with a non-US call center when flying a competing airline. It must be sorely tempting to send CR to India. I can't speak for others, but I would boycott the airline and cease all business dealings immediately in favor of another carrier if this ever happened. No joke.

8.) Find more creative ways to reward elites, or increase elite point/mileage threshold levels in order to reduce the number of elites. Double miles and electronic upgrades for Platinum and Executive Platinum customers used to be sufficient incentives, but the recent surge in popularity of "instant upgrade" coach airfares has made upgrading all but impossible in certain domestic markets, especially on weekdays. Triple miles for Platinum and Executive Platinum customers might be a good way to make up the difference.

9.) Clean your aircraft adequately. Of course you need to minimize costs and remain profitable, but nobody likes flying in filth. AA really needs to do a better job in this area in the domestic market.

10.) Price and sell in-cabin pet tickets based on the market flown, and allow pets to accrue frequent flier mileage. Consider setting the pet fee at a fixed percentage of the lowest published one-way fare. A fair payment schedule and loyalty rewards will go a long way to decrease shrinkage from "puppy and kitty stowaways," and dubious emotional assistance service animal certifications. Such a policy would be a nice PR move as well, and I submit it would serve to increase revenue overall from in-cabin pet fees.

I sincerely hope this information from one of your best customers is helpful in improving your airline and making it the most profitable and successful in the flying business.

Kelly
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