Customer Service Disaster – The Baggage Mishap
The other week, I was in Melbourne, Australia for a number of client/sales meetings regarding our data warehousing solutions. A good number of my presentations were around the simplification of business intelligence and the ability to make better decisions, faster. One topic of discussion was that of our Data Models for the banking industry and their benefits. A drill down in this specific discussion / presentation was on the state of the world’s banks and their business needs.
As a keystone of the Institute of Business Value (IBV) Study (actually a well recommended read) today’s banks are looking to rekindle their relationships with their customers, elevating customer service and maintaining their current, profitable customer base (duh – common sense, right?). Having this pitch on customer focus still warm on my tongue, I found myself in bizarro contrast regarding my current state of travel service (albeit an adjacent industry from banking, but with a self proclaimed statement of ‘enhanced’ customer service.)
Four days into my trip from the states I was still without my luggage. (side note: thank God for the recent Briggs and Reilly laptop bag upgrade that saved my life with the expandable compartment that allowed me to sneak a changes of clothes). As a relatively frequent traveler I am well aware of the issues with checking a bag and this trip was no different. I had spent two hours planning my roll aboard and was quite proud of my packing skills – two weeks of clothes in a carryon – yeah, sweet. When it was time to check in to the airport in Raleigh, the gate agent took a look at my bag and stated that it looked a bit big for the overhead… After 2 minutes of debate around this, I caved in to her logic (not really wanting to maintain the bag during my layovers) that this bag would not fit above and that the connecting flight in LA would not leave without my bag. Ha – so frigging far from the truth.
Fast forward to my third day in Melbourne – I am about to travel back to Sydney for 3 more days of meetings, and Delta calls me up. My bag has been… ‘Damaged’. After probing about the severity of the damage, I was basically told that I would need another bag. (ugh). Nightmares surrounding the state being of my suits and clothing begin to enter my mind.
Thus in the morning I purchase a replacement bag, knowing that my ruined suitcase will be in the next day. I attend my meetings and return home that night to find out that no bag had been delivered. I leave in the morning for Sydney. I call the baggage contractor (Metzgers – sp?) and once I get through, I am told to call the Melbourne office. Fine no sweat – I can handle that, not sure why no ‘transfer’ but hey, not going to complain at this point. When I get no answer, I call the Sydney office a second time. This time I am told that the bag was sent to Qantas. Hmm ok, that’s fine, but I am also told to call a number to contact Qantas baggage. I flew Delta, not Qantas to Sydney – Not sure why I am calling this number. Mildly irritated.
Ok, the next step I call the Qantas number, once through and querying about my baggage, I am asked, how did I get this number, and who gave it to me… I do find out (Thank the LORD) that my bag is right there in front of the woman on the other end of the phone – AND in Melbourne (SWEET!). I ask about delivery timing, as I am leaving in the morning and am told bluntly, “We are not responsible for this bag. Someone from Metzgers has to pick this up and deliver this bag to you.” It is 9pm in the evening and I leave at 8am for Sydney <fail>. After stopping short of offering this woman fast cash for delivering this bag, I call Metzgers in Sydney to illustrate the scenario.
Without dragging this on even longer, I was on the phone with a poor soul that had the bad luck to run into my call. I was pretty irritated, and the fact that the Melbourne office decided to close up early for the evening and forget to pick up my bag just put me all the way out there to test the backbone of customer service. After running through one hour of ‘what if’ scenarios, with multiple f-bombs – I accepted the fact that I would not have my bag for my trip to Sydney, and that I would be smelling like Braunschweiger for at least one more day.
Perhaps it is when you just give in that things begin to get better. Once I gave in to the nature of the beast and accepted the fact that I would be without my bag, it all just got a bit easier. While checking a brand new empty bag at the airport was a strange, it all became a natural part of the situation.
As I was just sitting down with a long black coffee, I got a call on my mobile phone. It was Metzger’s Melbourne office. They had gotten the 101 nasty phone calls from the gentleman in Sydneythat I spoke with last night,… and were upset that I was not at my hotel to reclaim my bag. WHAT!!! – Everyone and their mother, knew that I was leaving at 8am – Thus this idiot organization went to Qantas at the airport (where I was heading), sent the bag to hotel and now are calling me from the hotel as I am at the airport. Argghhh… The last comment from Metzgers was that they would race the clock and get it to the airport to check on my flight to Sydney. Cool – Yet at this point, I am so checked out regarding this bag, I could care less – and actually would rather have them deliver to my hotel, rather than me having to carry it myself. Screw it, I board my flight toSydney.
Two hours later, I find myself standing at the baggage claim area in Sydney waiting for my brand new, empty black replacement bag. Voila! It is here, and only mildly scuffed up due to the lack of internal support. Sweet. But wait, what is that over on the horizon, ..traveling my way.. looks like a giant garbage bag… no, it couldn’t be… everyone is commenting on it, ..sure does not look like it…oh God, let it not be,… ugh, I have to check and see the name,.. W…E…B…E.. R…. Oh no… it is.
After rolling the package off the conveyor, I drag the carnage over to a more quiet area of the airport to start rooting through my contents in a more private setting. Apparently the conveyor belt in LAX actually chewed through a good portion of my bag. Sorting through the bag, I find myself laughing – Thinking through the Models presentation that I had just given – An organization’s quality of customer service.
My bag getting ruined was most likely not an act of negligence on the part of Delta, but it was on their watch. All in all my experience with Delta throughout this nightmare travel scenario was not bad, their reps and associated offered support and actionable solutions – At no point did I think that Delta was ignoring me. The problem here was Delta’s usage of an outside vendor, an outsourcing operation that acts on behalf of Delta. While I support the concept of outsourcing, an organization must accept the fact that that acting vendor coveys the ‘face’ of the operating company. Delta should be accountable for all of Metzger’s activities, as it pertains to Delta’s customers.
Back home, I have yet to file my refund for the new bag and handful of ruined clothes. I assume that it will be a slightly tedious and painful process – but it will hopefully be the close to this customer service disaster.
As I think back to my presentation around banking customer service, I question those scenarios that have mimicked mine. Was the action organization ‘that’ clueless, Was some offering outsourced (even think mortgage transfers, or credit card companies) and do the institutions even care? At the end of the day, I think back to that BVI report – I laughed at the common sense of the report (like duh) but in reality, I believe that most organizations are missing the mark with customer service and that this truly is a low hanging fruit for companies to start improving. Customer retention vs customer acquisition – sometimes I just don’t think companies know the real costs. (sigh)