Can we consider a scenario where we every lived as a society where we were not customers or providers? I am not sure if a baby can be tagged as a customer to whom a mother provides milk to satisfy its demand? Of course one can always argue about it from emotions, social and anthropological perspective. But isn’t it right that even in this case one party needs a product and other provides it? Isn’t there a difference between mother to mother and talk about it our general terms of better mother of worse mother? On the other hand some babies could be just too demanding than others. Isn’t it the first stage when we start to learn about customer, provider, service, quality and so on.? I won’t go into the discussion of customer in the womb. For the sake of simplicity, I would start after the physical birth as we know in more common jargon.
As per wikipedia “Early societies relied on a gift economy based on favours. Later, as commerce developed less permanent human relations were formed, depending more on transitory needs rather than enduring social desires.” In the realm of economy it also says, ” In sales, commerce and economics, a customer (sometimes known as a client, buyer, or purchaser) is the recipient of a good, service, product or an idea – obtained from a seller, vendor, or supplier via a financial transaction or exchange for money or some other valuable consideration”. These relations has been used for centuries and millennia as we know and has given us a lot of material to talk about it. While some says customer is the king and other would say customers are created and managed on the desires of provider. I am going to write down some of my experiences of customer service. I am using special company names, as that’s where my interaction happened. The point is not to say that only these companies are bad or have bad culture of customer service. Rather it is to look at how we see, appreciate and value these interactions between 2 parties.
After more than 4 years I took a flight home. I found a good offer from KLM and booked a returned flight. Of course, it was an economy flight with all the restrictions on fare conditions. I have listed them at the end for reference. I believed that I can get my passport extended during my planned stay. Well, as I said, it was only my believe. My passport got delayed and I could not fly back as planned. I called KLM a day before flight and asked if I can cancel my ticket, as may be someone else can use it last minute. I told you already that my ticket was economy. To cancel the ticket, I had to pay EUR 200 to cancel it. So, I did not. After few days, I was checking for new one way flights and I realized that I may have an option to change my flight for a fee. I checked my fare conditions and I found that it was EUR 150, even after departure. I was able to login to KLM.com, find my ticket and see how much more I would have to pay. It was almost one third of the price of buying a new ticket. I was happy that I thought of this and started to wait for my passport. Life is never a straight road, isn’t it?
I opened klm.com as soon as I got my passport. Surprise! KLM says, it cannot find my ticket and advised me to call helpdesk. I called and told my situation. The lady said, sorry but we cannot find your ticket, Damn!! I persisted that I do have ticket. I heard some background discussion and she asked for more details. After few minutes she found my ticket. I gave here the information about the ticket I need. After about 30 minutes, we found all details about new ticket with change fee, service fee after calculation of exchange rates. I asked the lady, that my ticket conditions says, that I need to pay “service fee” only if I change the ticket by calling you and not if I do it online. She told me the only way it can happen is by calling customer care and as I have called, so I must pay this extra service fee of 15 EUR! I told her what my ticket has written and it does not say that I must call customer care after departure. She told me, ” KLM could have forgotten to mention it, but it does not mean that do not have to pay it! “. I mean seriously? forgot to mention!! Am I allowed to say that KLM made a mistake as it should have been that KLM should pay me for being kind to cancel a ticket? I persisted few more times to explain what I mean and what I understand from ticket conditions. In my situation, I am being forced to call customer care because of fault on klm.com. She told me, I did not take my flight and she is in fact trying to help me by finding the new ticket, so I must all the fee that she mentioned. If I do not want it, then I can find new tickets on my own!!!! I was shocked at her response and tone of voice. Help!! Really!! By doing what you are supposed to do and I am paying for it? Help!!!
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I payed the amount asked as this was the cheapest ticket possible. I payed EUR 150 as per the fare conditions and also “service fee”, as I called customer care. I asked the lady, who can I contact to raise my complaint about this. She gave me an email ID. I sent a mail to the given ID and I got a reply that they are not responsible for it. In fact they may asked me to contact the same team again but with an online form to raise my complaint. I raised the complaint and provided all the details that I am fine with payment of EUR 150 for change fee, but not 15 EUR as it was KLM’s fault as the website stopped to find my ticket after few days of my departure. It took me 5 more emails repeating the same point and explaining that I am not against change fee, but service fee. It included asking for the escalation procedure, as I could not find any on their website. I even got the same response from customer care of Europe, explaining my ticket conditions and why I must pay change+service fee. Finally, I got a response asking for my bank account for refund 🙂
It was not that bad an experience, but still what kind of services do we provide to customers when
- Customer needs to explain the situation at least 10 times and keep on asking for other people to find one who can understand he concern.
- Customer agent, tells the customer they are helping by doing their job for which they get paid and customer has to pay?
- We provide no information on how to seek further help. There are many channels provided to customer to reach the same front desk people. You can use twitter, fb, mail, call, but these are the same people. How I can escalate it to reach some person who can understand and not just go by the helpdesk script?
- We provide confusing enough conditions that even our staff does not understand.
In this case, I knew what happened and what I was asking for. But, as providers, do we expect everyone to understand these documentation and keep pushing for their rights. In my case, I am getting my refund, but what if this ping pong with same replies would have continued. What options do I have as a customer? Would I have gone to court? Which court? Which lawyer? How much money would I need to pay for that? Most of us would leave it there and continue with our life. Who will fight for 15 EUR? Probably, I should invest in myself and take a law degree as well.
While this case was still in process, getting same reply for 4th time, I got an email from KLM to rate their customer service experience for this case!!! I am not sure what were they expecting to fill in the form. Based on my experience, I am now waiting for my refund before I fill that form.
After this experience, will I fly again with KLM? I am sure I will, if I find a good deal from KLM. I have used KLM many times before and their flight is good, no problems there. They have always taken me places with care and without damage. World has not stopped eating, because some people got sick from food poisoning, neither have we stopped to fly because some flight were hi-jacked or some crashed.
While it was not easy to go through this. But at times while interacting with “customer care agents”, I would smile when I had to explain the documents that their company has written. And I am sure once I get my refund, it would bring another big smile to me.
Mulla Nasrudin climbed into a barber’s chair and asked, “Where’s the barber who used to work on the next chair?” “Oh, that was a sad case,” the barber said. “He became so nervous and despondent over poor business, that one day when a customer said he didn’t want a massage, he went out of his mind and cut the customer’s throat with a razor. He is now in the state mental hospital. By the way, would you like a massage, Sir?” “ABSOLUTELY!” said Mulla Nasrudin.
Ticket fare conditions:
Note that you get no refund if you miss flight, but you can change it even after departure!!
Change fee EUR 150 + fare difference
- Change before departure is permitted at a fee of EUR 150.
- Change after departure is permitted at a fee of EUR 150.
- You will pay an administration fee of EUR 15 / USD 16 (or equivalent amount in your local currency) when you change your ticket via telephone. If you change your ticket online via My Trip, no administration fee will be charged.
- If you change your ticket, the price may change due to tax recalculation and fare availability.
No refund if you missed your flight
- If you are not present in time for boarding, this ticket is not refundable and you are not eligible for a free rebooking.
A maximum stay applies
- A maximum stay of 12 month(s) applies.