Has WestJet Gotten Too Big to Deliver Great Customer Service?

 

westjet.pngApparently, WestJet doesn’t need to improve – they just need smarter customers.

That was the message I got this morning when I questioned why it was going to take up to 6 weeks for a copy of a receipt for a flight I took 2 1/2 months ago.  Here’s the story:

I realized I needed a supporting copy of the receipt for a flight I took in early December.  No problem, I thought.  I diligently save my emails from the airlines I fly.  Sure enough, 30 seconds later, I found the email with the itinerary – but it only had the flights on it, not the actual dollars spent.  There was a link, though, to a place where I could download it.  The caveat, to my dismay, was that the link to my receipt had only been available for 8 days following the flight.  Dang.

Was I worried?  Not at all.  Since its inception 18 years ago, WestJet has built its business on providing a superior customer experience.  This was going to be a breeze I thought.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When I explained the situation to the young lady in their call centre, she told me that all I had to do was click on the email link, and it would take me to my receipt.  When I said, “I thought it was only good for 8 days,” she replied, “Oh, this is for an earlier flight?” (I had already told her the flight dates, but she hadn’t really been listening).  She then told me that I should have read my email more carefully, and there was nothing she could do.  “Well,” she said in retrospect, “there is a form I can fill out and submit, but it’s going to be about 6 weeks for you to get it.”

Six weeks?  Really?

After I gave her all of the information to fill out the form, I said, “Could you do me a favour? If you have the ability to raise comments or concerns on your system, can you pass on that this is really a nasty process, and that WestJet might want to look into it?”

Her response floored me.  “Sir, we do provide you with a receipt,” she scolded.  “You just have to take more care in reading your emails.”

Yes, I am clearly an idiot.  But it gets better.

I responded by saying, “Yes, I understand this is all the customer’s fault (she missed the gentle sarcasm).  But, you know, in our business, if a customer calls and asks for a copy of a bill we had sent them 8 years ago, we could have it to them in three minutes.  I just think this is a process WestJet could work on.”

Her answer?  “I don’t know anything about your business, sir, but WestJet is a very large international company with hundreds of thousands of customers.  We can’t just have reciepts available if everybody starts calling and asking for them.”

Yikes.  The message?  ‘You’re just a little, insignificant customer – and it’s best you remember that.’  In her mind, there was absolutely no reason for revisiting or changing processes.  It would just be easier to have smarter customers.

The point of this blog post, of course, isn’t about the receipt itself.  It’s about attitude.

This isn’t the first time in the last little while I have gotten this underlying message in my dealings with WestJet.  And maybe if it were any other company, I wouldn’t be so surprised.  But that’s not the way it used to be.  This airline used to be held up as a model for customer experience – along with their US mentor, Southwest Airlines, and Disney, and Four Seasons, etc.  It used to be when you reached their call centre, you got cheerful, helpful people who were skilled in dealing with customers.  I would imagine that ten years ago, the response to my suggestion about improving the process would have been met with a cheerful something like, “I sure can understand your frustration, Mr. Belding.  I will absolutely pass this on!  Your comments are very important to us.”

But I’m really starting to wonder if WestJet hasn’t maybe lost their edge and their focus.  I’m certainly seeing the difference in their call centres.  I’m wondering if they have just gotten too big, started to believe their own press, and gotten a little complacent.  It wouldn’t be the first time that a company was so convinced of their superiority that they abandoned the quest to get better.

Um, and, oh WestJet, for the record, it just takes Air Canada, your biggest competitor, 7 days to provide a receipt….

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