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Friday, April 18, 2014

Communication, Not Our Bag

The Gurus are on planes, trains, and rental automobiles all the time, which gives me many opportunities to witness great (or not) service in the travel industry.  There are bumps on the Road of Travel, but those bumps can be smoothed and customer relations intact with simple communication.

The Situation

Typically, I’m a budget traveler.   Sure there are expectations of a different service experience with a budget airline than a moderate brand, but some things should be consistent.   Passengers should get their luggage!

The Gurus team flew Allegiant airlines a little bit earlier this month.  We arrived an hour late to our destination, and that is when the real issued started.  The plane let out, and all of us passengers run like a herd of cattle to our designated luggage belt. Then we wait…and wait….and wait…  We waited 1 hour at baggage claim!  This was the entire flight, not one or two passengers with lost luggage. 

The Missed Opportunity

At no point did a representative from the airline or the airport come to tell us what occurred, or when we could expect to receive our bags.  Passengers grow frustrated, but we feel disempowered to do anything.   I am not sure if anyone tried to find an Allegiant representative, if they did one was not found. 

I opt for the modern method that many of us seek for problem resolution, and hop on my smart phone to post a Facebook message. Check it out.

The response was tagged two days after the event, and it is written in present tense.  What?!
I also received this from my website complaint, written in real time as we waited for our bags.

I’ve received no second email addressing my complaint or explaining what happened.  60 days for a solution?!  What #2?!
Finally, like it was a normal delay, our bags spit up on another baggage carousel, 1 hour after we landed.
I am not upset about the baggage being delayed.  It was inconvenient, but not the end of the world.  If I was in a time sensitive situation, say I was trying to make a business meeting, it would be more upsetting.  It’s all in the eyes of the customer what requires an apology or a greater service recovery option.
Regardless, what is frustrating is Allegiant had three opportunities just to tell me what happened, or at least seem like they cared it is not a normal occurrence of travel to wait 1 hour after landing for our bags.   Someone at that organization knew why our luggage would not be timely delivered.  It would have been nice, and the right thing, to simply relay that information to the passengers.
The Gurus’ Advice
Communication is key!  As soon as an incident occurs outside of normal operations, tell your customers IMMEDIATELY with a sincere apology.   Best practice is this communication occurs in person, as it is more immediate, and clarifications or rumors can be addressed.  If you know when the situation will be rectified, say that too.  Say what you know, don’t speculate what you don’t know, and have faith customers are decent people and understand it’s not a perfect world.    It's possible a customer or two might open become unruly, but don’t punish your loyal pleasant customers because of a few.
Bonus advice: If you have an interactive Facebook page as part of a marketing or service strategy, role play written responses in training.   I took a look at Allegiant’s page, with no illusion it is a lone offender in the travel industry, and it was disheartening.  Do better by making sure the response is appropriate in time, tone, and information.  Stay away from condescending policies and procedures mumbo jumbo. 
Happy Travels!

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