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Ever fly Iberia Airlines? Me either, but a few days ago I chose Iberia to book flights from Rome to Madrid and Madrid to Marrakech, both flights in one day. Since it was going to be a long day, and we were getting into Marrakech kind of late, I paid about $300 extra to have both flights non-stop. Less than 24 hours later I got an email saying that my flights had been changed. We were now on a flight from Madrid that had a lay-over in Casablanca, and then went on the Marrakech, which put us landing a little after midnight. It's not that big a deal really, except that I had paid extra money to have an easier trip. It felt like I'd just had 300 bucks stolen from my wallet.
I just got off the phone with a very nice girl named Jessica, who works for Customer Service at Iberia. She, of course, can't refund my 300 bucks. She offered to cancel my flight and let me start all over again. She offered to change my flight to a different day. She did what she could, but of course Jessica wasn't able to say 'Yes' to what I wanted. So I did what I always do - I asked her to put me in touch with the person who could say yes. She put me on hold for her manager.
When Jessica came back, she said that there was not a manager who could talk to me. No one was available, but she had explained my situation, and they had told her to tell me no. I could leave my number if I wanted to be told no in person by a manager.
I just started laughing. Poor Jessica! She was SICK of me by this point.
"OK" I said. "I have a question and a request. The question is - does this happen a lot? Do you get a lot of phone calls, Jessica, from people who book a more expensive, more convenient flight, and are then changed to a lesser flight? I've never used your company before, and I don't know if this is an extraordinary circumstance, or if it happens all the time over there at Iberia."
Her answer: It happens a lot. Airports change flights, of course, and if you've paid extra for a non-stop, it doesn't mean it'll still exist the next day. Lesson: book cheap to North Africa.
My request: I asked her to leave her manager a message. I told her to tell him that he just saved the company $300. He also just lost about $3500 on the flight I was about to book from Madrid to Peru on June 13th with them, and now would not. And he also now had my ill will. I planned to spread the news of my Iberia experience as far as I could. (I'll also leave a copy of this post on their website, under the complaints section, where it says that Customer Care is their Commitment.)
The rubbing point is not that I lost $300. We've been traveling for a while now. Crap happens. You roll with it, and it's just not that big a deal. The rubbing point is that no one tried. A manager, who's job is to take care of people who call Iberia with problems, made poor Jessica come back on the line, and say "My boss won't talk to you, and said for me to tell you no for him."
It's bad business. It's short-sighted. I know that to Iberia I am just one person, with one transaction. But we're living in a time when customers have the means to put the word out about bad service, and bad business. I think we ought to use it, intelligently and responsibly. I should know the manager's name who refused to talk to me. I should have asked for it, and I didn't. Now Iberia doesn't know who to hold accountable.
By the same token - let's reward those who are excellent! Tell them! Tell their boss! On the way out of Trader Joes tomorrow, stop by the manager stand for 2 minutes, and tell them how awesome your favorite checker is, and why. My friend Wendy is super at this, and she's changing people's lives, in small ways, every day. Not to mention that she sees excellence everywhere, because she's looking for it. What a great way to live your life! If you want a good dose of this kind of thinking, read Linchpins, by Seth Godin. I know - we talk about this guy a lot. It's because he's Spot On. Which, I suppose, means he agrees with my view on things.
OK. I'm putting my soapbox away. Thanks for listening.
Please send good thoughts to Jessica. She's got one hell of a job, and one crappy boss to work for.