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Customer Service or B.S?

It is not my intention to pick on any single industry, but the following story illustrates the marketing practices that businesses are using to disguise their cost cutting practices as technological advancements. Please, we are not dummies.  We know the difference between customer service and B.S.

It’s the third week of June, and I am sitting in seat 14A (for the second time today) hoping that my flight actually takes off.  Things happen this time of year as the weather is unpredictable and delays are expected.  I have no deadline and no connecting flights to catch, so I avoid the queuing up at the ticket counter.  During the wait, I am amused by the number of times the passengers in line are instructed to use their airline app to re-book their flights and to check flight status. From time to time, I do. Sure enough, new departure times are posted even before they’re announced at the gate.  Good stuff.

Back to my current status from seat 14A:  Since there have already been so many false starts, I decide to wait until the plane is fully boarded (again) and the captain announces our departure, before I relay my arrival time to my awaiting family.  Once I’m assured of takeoff, I whip out my smart phone with my trusty airline app, and search for the schedule. Seems my plane landed an hour ago. Oops. The app failed when I needed it most. Oh, well.

Time to turn off and stow all electronic devices, so I grab my complimentary in flight magazine and on page 12 begin to read a letter from the airline CEO entitled “Our Future is Digital”.

Did you know that this airline “listened to their customers”, and because of that, in Houston we can tag our own bags and not wait in long lines for an agent?  And in Chicago we can actually re-book our own flights at self-service kiosks?   And if we insist on actually speaking to someone, they have “intelligent queuing” that will provide an estimated wait time…”that way, you can relax, grab a bite to eat or shop while you wait” (their words). And if that news isn’t exciting enough, they’re working on more “time-saving, hassle-reducing features at additional airports to be introduced later this year.” (again, their words)

Now for my trusty narrative from atop the orange crate: What?  Really?  This is how business leaders believe technology improves customer service?  It mocks our intelligence.  All I see are layers and layers of technology preventing companies from serving their customers.

During the chaos at the airport, I saw a very frightened and confused elderly woman (without a smart phone) wondering how she was going to meet up with her family in Chicago for their connecting flight to Paris.  She didn’t need an app. She needed an understanding, empowered, empathetic customer service AGENT to walk her through the process.  Never happened.

As I shared this story with my K40 family, it opened the floodgates: they all had horror stories about their cell phone providers, their banks, online retailers, and their cable companies.  I guess rather than being upset, I should be grateful for all of those companies who inspire us to be different.  In a world of technology, I am grateful for K40’s humanity.