Friday, October 26, 2018

How to FAIL at Online Customer Service

In just over a week, I'm flying to the US for a conference (the NIST NICE Conference, as it happens). My office has booked my flight with Qantas, and today I received an email from the airline offering me the chance to upgrade for a combination of frequent flyer points and cash.

Clicking the "Make your offer" button in the email takes me to a page where I can select how much I wish to bid for the upgrade, using a slider. The instructions state:
  1. Select the flight segment(s) you wish to upgrade. If there’s more than one flight segment, you can choose to make an upgrade offer for some or all of the segments. If you do not wish to make an upgrade offer for a segment, move the slider to the left to indicate ‘no offer’.
  2. Adjust the slider to show the amount of money you want to offer and if you are a Qantas Frequent Flyer member, input the Qantas Points you want to offer and select the update button.
Only, there's no slider. In both Firefox and Chrome, the part of the page where the slider should appear looks like this:

The slider is probably supposed to appear either above, below or between the "No Offer" label and the maximum amount of $4,105. But it's not there.

So I open the browser console, and there's a very obvious JavaScript error:

The error is in this line: = ","; 

You can't set a property of an object that doesn't exist!

It turns out there is no way to make an offer and get an upgrade.

Now, I'd like to notify Qantas of the problem with this process (which is outsourced, by the looks of things). I'm helpful like that. I mean, how many customers are willing and able to provide you with this kind of console log information to quickly resolve a problem?

Only, there's no way to get the information to Qantas. Replying to the email simply gets a bounce: "Please note that this email is unattended.". Clicking on the "Online help" link at the foot of the email leads to, which, despite being titled "Email Us" has nothing to do with email at all. Rather, it uses a pair of "Category" and "Sub category" drop-downs to try to categorise the user's query. After carefully inspecting these drop-downs - a time-wasting exercise if ever I saw one - there appears to be no way to direct a query relating to the upgrade process. I could search a library of FAQ's, but I don't have a question - I have a failure. I don't think searching the FAQ's for "loyaltyPointsFormat undefined" is going to get me very far, do you?

This is the heart of the problem; in an attempt to reduce customer service costs, the company has ensure that the customer cannot obtain service. Worse, it wastes the customer's time.

So, I'm writing this up in hopes that, one day, someone from Qantas will stumble over it and fix their broken upgrade bid process - and, more importantly, provide a way for customers with problems that Qantas doesn't anticipate - and they're the ones they really need to hear about - can get service. Until they do, they're going to miss out on business, fail to maximize revenues, give users a lousy customer experience (CX) and drive down their NPS (Net Promoter Score).

I'd call that an epic online customer service FAIL - wouldn't you?

Update: Afternoon of 29th October - three days later, somebody has finally woken up and the problem has been fixed. We can finally see the slider, and - wow! a little dial which provides a graphical indication of where the slider is positioned! Somebody is really thinking through the usability!

Oh, well. At least it's working. . . for now.