Good and Bad Customer Service

www.iinet.com.auAt their request, I wrote an email to the CEO of Qatar Airlines. The TL;DR version – Expedia SUXS, Qatar Suxs, iiNet awesome. Settle back people, this is a long one.

Today I called iiNet to cancel my Internet service. I wanted them to hold off for a day or two so that I can have Internet while I am moving out. Chris (the CSR) says that he’s put a note on the order to let it sit for a day or so. I’m like, “Whatever” and tell Tanel (my wife) that we’ll have to start stealing Wilf’s (my neighbor) Internet. As I’m saying it, I get this email.

Hi Tom,

After your phone call I asked around and was informed that the cancellation itself was instantaneous, the part that was pending was to do with the codes and setup on our end. What I’ve done is uncancelled it and set myself a reminder for two days to fully cancel it.

If there’s anything else we can help with, feel free to reply to this email or call us again on 13 22 58

Regards,

Chris

I’m like, “Whoa…you have got to be kidding me.” So I write a really great response and CC his CEO. The email to the CEO bounces so I decide to re-send it, tell him to send it to his supervisor since it bounced, and I CC the CEO’s of Expedia and Qatar Airlines. Why? Read on.

Chris,

After spending week after horrible week dealing with the customer service from Expedia and Qatar Airways over a ticketing issue, your service was the sort that I needed to restore my faith in humanity. I had feared that customer service was ripe with people that had no common sense, no ability to go out of their way to help their customers, and no empathy.

All I wanted to do was to cancel my service. Not because I was unhappy, but because I was moving. Trying to be proactive, I canceled it a couple of days ahead of time thinking that it wouldn’t be a problem to delay the actual cancelation day. All the other utilities have that sort of thing built in to their cancelation process.

When I asked about it, you were confused. You offered to put a note on the cancellation to “hold off for a day or two”. I got off the phone and told my wife that we could expect to lose Internet any second. Only moments later I got the below email from you.

Imagine my surprise. It probably took you less that three minutes to find out the information, put a reminder on your calendar, and fire off a quick email. But, the point is, you didn’t have to. I was off the phone. Out of sight, out of mind seems to be the order of the day for customer service. But not, apparently, for iiNet. You took those extra few minutes to ask around and make sure I had working Internet until I left. That will make our move much easier and we thank you for it.

While I think that iiNet should have some sort of system in place for delayed cancellation, your solution was as thoughtful as it was effective. While we are leaving the country, you can rest assured that you have made a supporter for life. If every CSR was as professional and thoughtful as you…well, CSRs wouldn’t have the reputation they do, that’s for sure.

Thank you and have a wonderful holiday,

P.S. Please forward this to your supervisor as I tried to CC the CEO but the email bounced. Thanks again.

Tom Andry

Okay, I think that’s the end of it. So, a few minutes later I get this canned response from Qatar.

Dear Mr. Andry,

Thank you for your e-mail dated 19th December 2012, which our Chief Exceutive Officer has recieved a copy of.

We would appreciate if you can provide us with further details relating to your recent Qatar Airways experience which you have mentioned in your e-mail. This will enable us to review your feedback and respond to you accordingly.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours truly,

Ali N. Alharazi

Senior Officer Customer Care

I’m an obliging sort of fellow. If they want to know more about my experiences with their airlines, who am I to deny them? Here is my email response:

Thank you for your response. Let me tell you a story of frustration and disappointment.

Our journey begins in Perth Australia. My family and I have moved to Perth from Florida (in the United States) with my wife’s job.

After being here for nearly two years, we decide, on the 21st of March, to schedule tickets to go home to the United States for a nice long (and long overdue) vacation. This vacation will start Christmas day and last for nearly a month. Because of the cost of tickets, we have to schedule our tickets well ahead of time. We booked through Expedia.com.au. We were booked on round trip tickets.

[We were booked to leave Perth, Australia December 25th, 2012 to arrive at Raleigh, North Carolina and leave Raleigh on January 21st, 2013 and return to Perth January 23rd, 2013. Five tickets with confirmation number XXXXXXX – ticket numbers xxxxxxxxxxx.]

Fast forward five months and it is November. Loving Perth, the people, and the climate, we wish to stay. But, unfortunately, the mining industry is not what it once was and the economy has taken a downturn. When my wife’s employer finds out she is scheduled to visit the US, they suggest that she just stay.

So, we no longer need round trip tickets since we are not coming back. What we need is one way tickets. Our first stop is to visit, in person, a Qatar office here in Perth. We are told that, since we booked through Expedia, we must contact them. Shrugging our shoulders and not at all concerned, we thank the representative and leave.

That night we contact Expedia. They tell us that we have to contact Qatar. Odd, since we had already done that. So, we do. They tell us to contact Expedia. And back and forth. Qatar tells us the tickets are not refundable. Then they say they are. Then they are not sure. Expedia is doing everything they can not to do anything. We are calling every night for a solid week trying to get a straight answer.

Finally, we get someone from Expedia to call Qatar Airways. They converse and inform us yes, the tickets are refundable and that they’ll put the refund in right away.

Hurray!

But, as luck would have it, we’ve spent so much time on the phone that our portable phone loses charge and the call is dropped. We are disappointed but confident now that we know the truth.

Moving countries is a lot of work. Now that we knew that we could get our tickets refunded, we spent a week lining up moving companies and selling some of our possessions. We even decide to take the refund of our tickets and purchase one-way tickets not out of Perth but out of Sydney three weeks later than we planned to leave (now we want to leave on January 13th, 2013). We’ll rent a camper van and travel Australia. It will be good for our three boys. Finally, two weeks before we are scheduled to leave, we call to claim our refund.

And it begins again. Qatar telling us to call Expedia, Expedia telling us to call Qatar, back and forth and over and over again until we are so dizzy and frustrated my wife, who’s scheduled the tickets and therefore is making the calls, is practically in tears each night. Here are some of her notes from before:

28/11/2012

Call Expedia again.  They speak with Qatar Airways.  Qatar Airways says that we can cancel and receive refund within 8 to 12 weeks   150 per ticket to cancel.  We can cancel these tickets and receive a refund up to 4 hours before departure.

We can also change the tickets which would cost $75 per person.

And after:

14/12/2012

Lalit (Expedia) – spoke to Lalit who says that the tickets are non-refundable

On the phone with Lalit of Expedia and customer service rep of Qatar

Amran – Staff Number 40327  (who spoke to Wilson of Expedia on 28/11/2012) – they confirmed that on 28/11/12 I was told that I could cancel the reservation and receive a refund within 8 to 12 weeks.  They said that now, we are no longer able to cancel the reservation.

14/12/2012 11 :15 PM

Spoke with Sandy at Expedia – Sandy said that Expedia can’t do anything unless Qatar Airways agrees to make a change.  He gave me the Qatar Airways booking reference, ticket number and phone number

Qatar Booking  reference XXXXXXX

Tom Andry ticket number XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Tanel – XX

Noah – XX

Kellan  -XX

Soren -XX

Qatar airways phone number  1 300 340 600

Expedia Case ID  remains the same:  XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

17/12/2012

Around 9:30 AM  Spoke to a Qatar Airways person.  She said tickets are non-refundable. I ask to speak to supervisor.  She is going to have a supervisor call me within an hour.

9:30 PM  No call received

As you can see, we get Qatar and Expedia to talk to each other again. But now, the tickets aren’t refundable. Now they can only be rescheduled (after we had been told that we could get a refund up to 4 hours before departure). At this point we are on the phone with Expedia. Though we can see on your website and theirs that there are flights available on the day that we want, they can’t give us seats. In fact, they can’t (or won’t) give us seats out of Sydney, Melbourne, or anywhere else in Australia OTHER than Perth. So, we’ve rented a camper van to tour the country only to have to come right back to Perth in order to leave. On top of that, they can only change the outgoing ticket, not the return. The return ticket we have to cancel and hope that we’ll see some sort of refund.

Okay, we say. Cancel the return ticket.

They can’t, they say. We have to take the trip first. Does that make sense to anyone? I know I’m not going to take the return flight, why can’t I cancel it now?

Is Qatar the problem here? Partially. As you can see, we booked through Expedia (a mistake we’ll never make again) and they shoulder the largest portion of the blame. But we talked with multiple people at your organization. Each time we got completely different levels of service. Some of your employees outright lied to us (telling us that we’d been told something many times when, in fact, we’d only called once at that point). My wife, on more than one occasion was told, by your employees, that she was lying. SHE was. When, none of them seemed to be able to agree in what was the truth of our tickets. This led us to believe that if we called enough, we’d finally find another person that would realize that, in fact, our tickets were refundable. The worst part, at least from a customer service perspective, was that many of them promised to check into our issue and call us back.

Ask me how many times I’ve been called back by Qatar Airlines. The answer is never.

In the end, it is clear to me that Qatar Airlines had the power to make this right. Expedia, however loathsome their actions were in this, would have done whatever the person at Qatar said. The fact that we couldn’t get a person in your organization to help us, to side with us, is, to put it mildly, disappointing. We were your customers. We were ready to give you right back the money you refunded. But all we could get from your customer service representatives was abuse and the runaround.

Over $14,000. That’s how much we spent on tickets. It took us two and a half years to save that money (and we had to borrow from our parents for some of it). Had your airline approved the refund on the first call, we would have immediately rebooked with you for our one way tickets and, perhaps, scheduled in a few long layovers so that we could expose our children to a few countries (my wife was particularly interested in spending time in Doha – something that Expedia wouldn’t let us book in the end). I’d be writing a small book of your praises (as I did for iiNet in the email that brought this matter to your attention) instead of the diatribe you are reading now.

Instead, while we are forced to use your airline because of the terms of the rebooking, you can only imagine the sort of taste that has left in this customer’s mouth. Will we use Expedia again? Never. Not if they had the only tickets going to the place of my mother’s funeral. I’d rather miss it. Would I use Qatar Airlines again? Well, honestly, if your customer service representatives are an indication of the training every member of your organization receives, why would I? How could I know I wouldn’t get food poisoning on your flights or even arrive in the correct city? I know I’m being sarcastic but your customer service representatives are, for nearly every one of your customers, the face of your company. And that is a face that doesn’t seem able to give the same answer twice.

I thank you for your time if you have made it this far down this email. The fact that I received a response (automatically generated though it may be) to my first email (of course Expedia didn’t respond) is heartening. I can only hope that some good will come of this ordeal. Honestly, after the treatment we’ve received at the hands of your employees, I doubt that our paths will ever cross again.

Tom Andry

I sent the email less than 30 minutes ago. I have no idea what will come of this. But if someone doesn’t say something, nothing will change.