American Airlines cancelled almost 600 flights today which brings the total to more than 3,000 cancellations this week. The result: 100s of thousands of stranded travellers. That’s a lot of inconvenienced customers. For many of them, the cancellations represent a major problem; keeping them from important business trips, vacations, and family visits.
So how well did American Airlines respond to its customers’ problems? Rather than trying to dissect American’s entire response, I took a look at how the firm handled the situation on its Web site.
On the top of the American Airlines’ Website homepage there is a clear red link: “ADVISORY: AIRCRAFT INSPECTIONS AFFECT SOME AA TRAVEL.” Here’s where the link led to:
My take: As I’ve discussed in the past, good customer service has four components (which I’ve dubbed ACES): Accountability (take responsibility for fixing the problem); Communication (clearly communicate the process and set expectations); Empathy (acknowledge the impact that the situation has on the customer; and Solution (at the end of the day, make sure to solve the problem)
Here’s how I’d grade American Airlines across the ACES:
While the page starts out by saying “We are sorry about inconveniencing you…,” nothing on the rest of the page suggests that American Airlines is taking full responsibility for the situation. There’s no statement saying that they are committed to trying to fix the problem.
The airline gets credit for putting a prominent link on its homepage. But it does not provide very clear picture of the process for customers to resolve their issues. There’s a link where consumers can send emails to “request information about compensation,” but no statement about the timing or content of the response that they can expect. Also, the site does not make it clear what customers can expect when it says: “Customers who were scheduled on a flight that was cancelled may request a full refund…” Does “request” mean that AA will give every inconvenienced traveler a full refund?
There’s nothing on the page that acknowledges the potentially severe problems that this situation has caused for many customers.
At best, the airline is describing how travelers can get on another American Airlines flight. But there’s no description about what they are going to do make up for the inconvenience. Also, the airline has limited their solution for travelers who booked after April 8th and insists that everyone must begin travel by April 17th.
Overall Grade: D+
The bottom line: You may not be able to avoid all problems, but you can certainly control how you respond.