If we ran EasyJet, we would try harder on our customer service

An EasyJet plane
EasyJet in acton

On August 25th, an article in the Financial Times caught my eye. It was a complaint by Lucy Kellaway on the customer service of EasyJet (alternative link) printable version works. Looking at Lucy’s description of the problem, I can follow her along well and know I have been there or somewhere similar myself (and I’m sure many others have too).

Long story short, she made a mistake by not putting in her e-mail correctly and rebought the tickets before realizing what she had done. When she did, EasyJet made it very difficult for her to get her money back as a result of the mistake. Was the mistake her fault? yeah, (although a site can often lack in putting error preventative practices in place). But even then, no company should not be able to address and solve this problem shortly after it happens. Seriously, no company. And it seems that is exactly what happened here.

What I liked in the article was how frustrated Lucy felt about still going with EasyJet again in the future because of their convenience and price. A lot of us have to deal with this everyday, (often with airlines). I think I myself would draw the line though. After an experience like this, I really would stop flying this airline unless I really had to.

I do reward good customer service with my business though. I personally feel T-mobile has the best best customer service in my eye, and I stay with them because of this. The price I pay is that I don’t get to use the phone I want (the iPhone) or have 3G in the U.S. (although I think that will finally change next month).

Andy Harrison, Chief Executive of EasyJet
Andy Harrison, Chief Executive of EasyJet

Ultimately, it seems that this issue has been resolved. Andy Harrison, Chief Executive of EasyJet, wrote to the FT on September 1, 2008 saying her refund was on the way. What did not help his case though was that his letter did not address Lucy’s detailed complaints about what went wrong along the way and what he is doing to correct them. It was simply passing the blame on her and defending their customer service track record with a simple statistic. There was a generic “we shall strive to improve.”

Robert Shaw, professor of Marketing Metrics at the Cass Business School
Robert Shaw, professor of Marketing Metrics at the Cass Business School

I had found this other event interesting as a result of Lucy’s column. Robert Shaw, a professor of Marketing Metrics at the Cass Business School, sent a letter to the FT in response to Lucy’s letter asking if the punishment fit the crime. As in, EasyJet will lose more in revenue than Lucy lost personally in this transaction – did Lucy really make the right call writing an article like this?

Honestly, I don’t understand what Robert Shaw is trying to say here. Lucy runs a column dedicated to customer service in the FT right? (at least that’s what she said in her article). So if she has a first-hand bad experience, why would she not write about it? That’s like getting mad at a bad movie review because the film will make less money. Lucy made a mistake here, but it’s so obvious that EasyJet is at fault by not making a system where a customer refund is easy. EasyJet’s a professional business here, not a random small business with a “no refund, no exchange policy.”

I think what may have helped in Lucy’s original article would be if she had included some more details and specific quotes. Those would add some value to her complaint. She should have probably used space for that instead of taking a random stab at Starbucks for “tepid” coffee (totally irrelevant) and Ikea for being too big. The way she related that to customer service didn’t make any sense to me. Ikea being too big is the nature of their business, something me and many others are perfectly fine with. The same goes for Starbucks’ coffee. I also found her mentioning of Procter and Gamble’s AG Lafley’s “delighting the consumer” at “two moments truth” to be a little of a stretch in being related to the problem at hand with EasyJet. I know there is some relation, but I think a better work could have been cited to describe what was going on.

Anyways, thanks Lucy for making us aware of EasyJet. I live in the U.S. so I’m not sure how relevant this is to me, but hopefully it will help others. And to EasyJet, you need to work harder on your customer service. You clearly have a faulty customer service system in place and unfortunately, you have already blown your best chance to address it with Andy Harrison’s letter.

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