Airlines and hotel chains are enormous companies. Calling into customer service can sometimes resolve a problem, but often times the people on the other end of the phone have limited power to help. I ran into this problem yesterday when calling in to Etihad Airways.
Etihad offers a chauffeur service to all First & Business Class guests in the United Arab Emirates and many other countries. The main stipulation of the service is that you have to book this service at least 24 hours before your flight. Unfortunately I only booked the flight about 26 hours before departure and for some reason the Etihad site didn’t update fast enough for me to be able to book the car within the time frame.
Yesterday afternoon, when I was finally able to call, it was about 16 hours before departure. The nice lady on the phone kept telling me that she couldn’t do anything because of their 24 hour policy. Her supervisor said the same thing, but reluctantly agreed to email the chauffeur department when I pressed her. About an hour later she called back an said that they couldn’t help me. No car for me.
This wouldn’t have been a big deal if I was in Abu Dhabi, but I was actually in Dubai. A car from Dubai to Abu Dhabi airport runs quite a lot of money and there is very limited bus service. Not sure what to do next, I tweeted my frustration and tagged Etihad in it. Within five minutes I had a response from the Etihad social media team asking about the details of my problem. It only took another hour before I had confirmation that the chauffeur service had been arranged.
In a perfect world customer service agents should be able to fix problems over the phone. Unfortunately this doesn’t happen most of the time. It seems that a lot of companies have empowered their social media teams to cut through a lot of the bureaucracy that regular customer service agents have to deal with. I was impressed with how quickly Etihad’s social media team resolved my problem. They even called my hotel and had a message sent up when I didn’t respond immediately since I was out walking around the city.
To be clear, had I been able to book this car before the 24 hour window then I would have. Yes technically arranging the car was a violation of their policy, but denying me the transport was in a way a violation of the spirit of the service.
This strategy has worked for me more times than I can count. Be aware that if you are making an unreasonable request or are being rude to customer service then don’t expect the social media team to help, but if you have a legitimate problem they will do everything they can to resolve it for you.
You can also go beyond Twitter. Post on a company’s Facebook wall or tag them in an Instagram photo. They pay people to monitor those outlets all of the time in order to respond to any problems that people have. Most people are still doing it the old fashioned way, but you don’t have to.
I will leave you with one last tip. If you still don’t get the resolution that you need from the social media team then do what I did last year when IHG wrongfully (in my opinion) denied my Best Rate Guarantee. Find the company’s email address structure and then look up the names of senior management at the company. For example most companies use firstname.lastname@example.org. Last year I figured this out for IHG and emailed all of their senior vice presidents. Lets just say the problem was then quickly resolved.
Do you have any tips for getting a travel related problem resolved? Please let me know in the comments!