Air Canada is not known for their superior customer service, but after this story was published, I have begun questioning whether they understand customer service at all! At the core of customer service is setting expectations and communicating to the customer. In many cases, companies don’t have to solve your problem to satisfy you, they just have to manage your expectations.
As a common practice, Air Canada unilaterally decides to remove bags from passenger airplanes when their cargo hold is overloaded due to size or weight. This is news to me and I have travelled on Air Canada frequently. Apparently this happens often, more frequently with smaller planes. What gets me fired up is that Air Canada does not notify its passengers that it is pulling their bags from the airplane. This critical information will allow customers to make informed decisions as to what to do.
Lack of communication to the customer is blamed on the last minute decisions to pull bags, claiming that Air Canada doesn’t have enough time to let the customers know. I would estimate this has a lot more to do with not having to face an irate customer and cause delays while a discussion takes place.
Air Canada’s outsourced call centre is having challenges when it comes to handling these types of calls. The call centre is likely well equipped to handle standard customer requests, but when real-time information is essential (i.e. do I wait in the airport for my bag, do I go on with my trip and hope the bag appears, do I buy new clothes and supplies), they need local staff to answer these questions. The local staff fails at any customer service, and pawns off the issue to the call centre.
Air Canada has failed once again on setting expectations (i.e. “your bags may be pulled from this flight if it’s overloaded”), as well as communicating with customers (i.e. “your bags have been pulled, they will travel on another plane and arrive 2 hours after you do”). If they wanted to wow their customers, they could go further and offer to send your bag from the airport to your hotel, but let’s focus on baby steps.
Customers, who cannot make informed decisions and who are caught off-guard by some unexpected and very preventable consequence, will have a terrible customer experience. These customers are likely to complain to the company as well as go to the competition the next time they need similar products or services, even if it costs more. If Air Canada keeps this up, WestJet will soon be number 1 in Canada. More on Westjet in my next post…
Readers: Have you had similar experiences with airlines (or any company) failing to set expectations and them making it worse by not communicating with you?