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A recent experience with lost luggage tells the tale of how important it is for companies to integrate core business processes into the contact center.

When flying to Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport recently, I certainly wasn’t looking for material for a story about how an airline’s systems were so siloed that they got in the way of the enterprise mission, namely delivering passengers and bags — but that’s exactly what I got.

Upon arriving in Rome, we weren’t surprised that our luggage was missing since a storm had disrupted ground operations and, apparently, prevented our bags from being loaded at Chicago’s O’Hare. So we filled out lost luggage forms, figuring the bags would be easy to spot. We’re premiere passengers, so the airlines had marked our bags with bright red and fluorescent green tags emblazoned with a big “S.”

The next day, and for the following five days, we dutifully checked the Web site as instructed by airline personnel for updates on the status of our bags…. but the “unknown” status never changed. Our premiere status ensured that customer service answered my calls quickly. Agents were sympathetic as they checked various systems, but couldn’t locate our bags.

On day four, I started tweeting. This immediately generated a response from the airline. Again, I checked the Web site as directed. And, again, well-meaning agents called me, but still I had no bags. Day six finally brought my bags but not before I received three contradictory messages: One agent told my hotel that my bags would arrive in two days; another agent told me a courier was on its way with the bags; and, of course, the website still said “status unknown.”

My vacation was nearly ruined because the airline’s contact center exists in a communications silo, separated from other core business processes. In my case, the baggage systems weren’t connected to the contact center. Why couldn’t airline personnel scan the luggage tags on my bags, which no doubt were sitting in a lost baggage storeroom somewhere, then access my contact information from my lost bags report and trigger an outbound notification to me and the customer support center conveying the status?

This is a perfect example of why organizations need to create an Omni-channel experience for customers. It’s not just about smoothing out the customer relationship, as in this case no amount of personal attention from the customer service silo could overcome failure to address the primary concern — getting passengers and their checked bags to an intended destination on the same flight. Metrics on contact center agent performance are irrelevant if the problem remains unresolved. Taking an integrated approach that combines business processes (ERP and CRM) with all channels of communications facilitates an Omni-channel focus on addressing customer needs.

My personal journey was a nightmare, reminiscent of the late ’80s John Candy and Steve Martin classic, Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

You can do better for your customers.

(In case you’re wondering, several weeks after we returned home, the airline reimbursed us in full for items we needed to buy during the time our luggage was lost. Its great service is much appreciated, and the people I dealt with did the best job with the tools they had available. But I sure hope they get better tools in the future.)

This blog originally appeared on the NoJitter.com web site

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2 Comments

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  1. Tomi Halmela

    Hello Neal,

    Thanks for the good story and sorry about your vacation.

    Something in your blog caught my eye: when you started
    tweeting, the airline carrier replied immediately. By conventional standards their
    customer service was well aligned. They had a good system for catching your negative
    message instantaneously and the means of doing the needful in quick damage
    control. Still, even if the ability to reactively service unhappy customers
    quickly is good, an even better way is to become proactive and keep your
    customers happier in the first place.

    Following on to the omni-channel experience you suggested,
    companies could use intelligent notifications to service their customer better.
    What if immediately after landing at your destination, you would receive a
    message telling the following:

    1. sorry,
      but your luggage did not make it on the same flight
    2. please
      contact XYZ at the airport for more instructions
    3. estimated
      arrival time for your luggage delivery is ZZZ.

    I know I wouldn’t be happy with this information, but at the
    same time, I could go on with my vacation. As a customer, knowing that someone
    is taking care of my problem can be comforting. I think the worst you can give
    to your customer is “status unknown” and have them living in uncertainty.

    (0) 
    1. Neal shact Post author

      Great comments.

      “Status unknown” left us in a perpetual state of uncertainty and anxiety. What replacement items should we buy?, in what quantity? and what do we do if the bags arrived after we moved on to another location. When the bags were located we received three different, conflicting messages about the status, which one was correct? 

      Accurate, intelligent outbound notification would have been very welcome.

      (0) 

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