Image courtesy of www.bradleyhardin.com
I cannot believe that from being an avid reader, I am actually now a letter sender! I just had this terrible experience recently and I wanted to share it with our FP community (yes, we are a community!) not just to complain but more to learn a lesson from our own experiences. I had already sent this email to their online support but I know your site and contacts reach far & beyond so that this feedback may reach the right people and avoid putting customers through the same experience. I'm not sure if it would be a concern putting the company's name and honestly I am just playing with the title to lighten up an otherwise dark mood so please feel free to edit as you see legally and FP fit.. Thank you for helping and entertaining FP! A day is not complete without you. =)
To whom it may concern,
On 12th of April, I tried to book a flight for my sister who wished to travel with her husband and kids back to the Philippines on the same day. I was able to successfully book a ticket under Reservation code: HECNBL.
When I thought everything was okay, a few hours later, she forwarded me the email below so I immediately called your reservations center which is based in the Philippines while we are here based in Singapore. The agent named Carol informed me that the ticket was voided because of your new policy that the credit cardholder should be part of the travelling party. I find these ridiculous as not everyone especially minors would have their own credit card. I had worked for a travel agency myself and never had I encountered this issue. Neither is it my first time to book tickets for other people.
I asked Carol for other options then. She told me to pay for the tickets through cash at a ticketing agency. I told her this is not an option as the only ticketing office in my area is far from my place and we are running out of time. She told me to ask a relative from the Philippines to pay at a ticketing agency on my behalf (seriously, do you think this is a good option to ask your customer to hassle other people from another country to fix this problem that was created by your company in the first place)? 45 minutes later in that international call we were still going around in circles. I asked her if its possible that since I am going to take them to the airport anyway, would you be able to hold the ticket and I'll pay for it personally (since she said that the reason for the cancellation was me being a 3rd party)? She said yes, the ticket would be valid again as long as I go with them and present my credit card and identification.
Imagine my relief and frustration as we did not need to spend and waste that time & charge to my phone bill but at the same time I had serious doubts with her product knowledge as she even kept calling me in a different name no matter how many times I told her my full name so I asked her to confirm as we don't want to end up with no tickets, no flight when we get to the airport. Suprise, suprise, what she had just advised is wrong.
I then had to beg her (as I had been asking for a supervisor several times now not long during the conversation) that I seriously need someone from higher authority to help me. After waiting, a supervisor took the call and advised me of the correct reason which was because of the card I used. I had a debit/credit card which I had been actually using as a Visa card for the longest time and never had any problems such as this but apparently your Treasury department doesn't accept such. I talked to her for a long time too but she cannot give me other options either. I told her that I have no choice but to book with another airline then since that is the only card I can use. She advised that I can try to book again using the same card but she cannot guarantee that it wouldn't encounter the same problem.
Book another ticket for the same passenger using exactly the same card, why would the result be different this time?? Is it wise for a supervisor to give such advise that would have created a bigger and surely "double trouble" for the customer?? I asked her then to just make sure that the value charged be credited back to my account so I can use it to book another ticket with another airline even if it means my sister would be separated from her husband and two small kids. She said I need to call my bank to check.
I called my bank and they said the value was still floating and they haven't received any advise yet regarding a refund/released. I called he airline again and talked to another agent and another supervisor explaining everything again for another 30-40 minutes of international call. As you can imagine I am very upset and disappointed by this time. They had advised me it would take 15-30days to refund my money. They cannot give me any other option anymore and kept advising over and over again that if I want the refund to be expedited, I should contact online support which really wouldn't help me book that ticket on that day, wouldn't it?
So to better improve your customer experience, here are my main point of concerns:
1) If the card I used was invalid for such transaction, the card should have been declined in the first place. Because if you look at it from a customer's point of view, it clearly is some sort of cheating: I process my transaction, it successfully goes through, you send me a confirmation, I rest easy thinking my itinerary is okay, you send me an email of cancellation, then inform me the money wouldnt be refunded for another 15-30days for international cards. Does that sound right to you?
If you cannot accept my card, then don't take my money. If you cannot improve the system to automatically filter these type of cards, then make sure your system is efficient enough to automatically release the authorization hold. Last time I checked my card the amount is still on hold status. To be honest that was the only cash I had left. The only card I can use. It was about 5 in the afternoon already when I gave up on your agents and I had to rush and find cash that I can put in my card so I can find another airline and book another ticket for a flight that night. Please imagine the horror if this happened to your customer who has no access to cash or card and that was the only money she had left.
2) Customer experience is still the best and the worst marketing you could get. No matter how good your products are, how good and affordable the prices and how many promotions and offers you advertise, the very core of any company is their customers and their manpower. I had worked in the customer service industry and I personally would be scared to take calls if I am not confident that I am armed with good product knowledge.
If you are new and or haven't encountered such situations yet, find the right answers for the customers instead of giving them false answers just so you could get rid of them. Unfortunately, that is the very impression I got from all the agents and supervisors that I talked to, they just want to finish the call and get me off their backs with no sincere purpose to help me. So aside from the money that was held, I have yet to see my phone bill with more or less 2hours of international call charges.
3) You may want to revisit your new policy regarding the 3rd party payment though if it really is a new policy as advised by the first agent. We are in an era where convenience is one of the priorities and selling points. Not everybody believes in the system of credit cards, nor everybody is qualified to get one e.g. minors, newly-hired employees, etc. There are other ways to protect and avoid fraudulent transactions without ruining your customer's experience.
I want to put all this behind and may this feedback help your company in any way it can. It would also be appreciated if you could expedite the release of my money on my card. Thank you very much.
Note: Letter slightly edited.
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