The Opportunity of Complaints

The Opportunity of Complaints

Australian airline Jetstar recently got media attention when a gate attendant apparently acted rudely to a customer, actually several customers, while they were boarding a flight from Sydney. The fracas was apparently over carry-on luggage. When the customer, a Ms Mesha Sendyk, proved the carry on was within limits, the gate attendant started to rant on, and ultimately had the passenger kicked off the flight even after she boarded. Other staff stood by powerless, as the police were called!

Ms Sendyk then had to pay for a last minute flight to her home destination, and then sat down to write a letter of complaint to Jetstar. A psychologist by training, the letter outlined Ms Sendyk’s perspective, and was backed up by independent accounts by other passengers!

Jetstar’s response was prompt but unacceptable. In essence, the letter offered to refund the original fare, but did not offer any compensation for the alternate, more expensive, airfare on another carrier. The response further threatened her with a total ban from flying Jetstar in the future.

To Ms Sendyk’s credit she didn’t drop the fight, and an article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. Publicity was not good for Jetstar, especially given other customer service complaints against Jetstar in the media.

To Jetstar’s credit senior management has taken stock of the issue at hand and taken positive action. A senior Jetstar executive personally phoned Ms Sendyk and apologised to her. She was advised that the gate attendant in question was suspended pending an investigation of the incident.

A good response from Jetstar in the end, but the incident should never have happened in the first place. I wonder how many customers who witnessed this incident will think twice before choosing Jetstar next time. Certainly Ms Sendyk and her family!

As Ms Sendyk said: 

It hasn’t been pleasant but I’m happy with the response.

For the other 5999 Jetstar staff, thank you for looking after us in our travels, a good flying experience really is important.

I’ve personally flown Jetstar a number of times, and can honestly say I’ve only had good experiences. This shows that one bad apple can have a major effect, publicly!

Customer complaints are an opportunity to engage in a dialogue with the customer. By complaining the customer has volunteered to talk with you, and a positive response can enhance your image.

Customer Experience Lessons

  1. There’s rarely benefit to be gained to arguing with a customer, especially publicly.
  2. Create a culture that ensures other staff stand up and do something one when staff member is doing the wrong thing
  3. Respond immediately and ensure that you have all facts before leveling accusations at customers.
  4. Be prepared to say sorry when a mistake does occur
  5. Look at complaints as being an invitation from the customer to engage in a conversation. Its a golden opportunity.
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