Easy, it Ain’t

What with the announcement by a number of retailers that they are re-considering the tone of voice and announcements made by their self service checkouts and others who are removing such non-human (inhuman?) equipment, it has not been a good few weeks for technology in retailing.

With WH Smith likely to have to employ more staff to cope with the boarding pass “refuseniks” in their airport self-service hells (sorry, halls) – yes, the customer can not say no, but the supervisor can – and when I tried to check in my bag on my latest flight the automated check-in telling me that the flight left 37 days previously, my levels of frustration at the way retailers and service companies are applying technology is growing daily.

But Easyjet are my current prize-winners. I asked before why it was that so many companies screw up service so badly? And Easyjet have tried to give me more reasons to return to that question.

In early July, due to the serious condition of my mother I had to postpone an Easyjet flight which my wife and myself were due to make in about 5 days time. You can not do this by phone with a real person but have to use their email system off their website. So I did this and received immediately an incident number.

Then there was silence. For almost two weeks. I email for an update and get an email back saying nothing can be done unless “circumstances change”. I reply that they have; my mother died before the flight date. But Easyjet seemingly had closed the incident file.

What I did get though was a customer service survey form to fill in. I do; it probably makes interesting reading.

I then email Easyjet again, which has the effect of opening up another incident file. Again silence. I email again and this time success. I get asked for a death certificate and whether the passenger named Sparks traveling with me is related to me. Oh, and I get another customer service survey form; my completed reply probably makes even more interesting reading.

But do I get any resolution? What do you think? Time goes by and nothing.

But then I was idly playing with Twitter one night and decided to pithily (what I really felt could not be summed up in 140 characters or less, for sure) state my case to the Easyjet Twitter feed:.

easy Jet 3

I get a response (I was lucky. Easyjet are only open on Twitter 0800-2000 GMT each day); they’ll look into it. They do and claim customer services have dealt with it. What I then get from customer services is and email which says:

Easy Jet Email

Well, given the spelling errors, I suppose this suggests there is a human involved in customer services somewhere.

We do the dance of silence, twitter comment, night time, silence, twitter comment, night time, silence, a few more times – with another customer service survey thrown in (and away) before Easyjet’s twitter feed ask me for the death certificate and passenger relationship (which I have already supplied to customer service) again. When I tell them it is on file they reply:

Easy jet 2

Now really. Is it asking too much in this technological day and age for the same company to think about treating customers as people and to actually focus on them and not on their own systems and silos? Multi-channel seems a long way away at this point. I wonder if there’d be the same problem if they were owed money by a customer? (I am sorry the money is in my other account and the two accounts do not talk to each other).

But then a breakthough;  the twitter people come through and solve the problem, though I have to wait another 10 days for proof this actually happened. The customer service folk disappeared and I’ve not heard from them, nor thankfully have I had another customer service survey form – yet. It does make me wonder if anyone ever reads them and if the responses inform policy and behaviours?

I am not sure what the moral, if any, of this tale is. You simply have to shake your head I think. The only thing I am certain about, is that Easy, it was not. Oh, and it makes me think twice about using such companies when I have alternatives.

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Education and Students and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
This entry was posted in Automation, Communications, Customer Service, Easyjet, Personal, Retail Failure, Self-Scanning, Self-Service, Service Quality, Twitter and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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